Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) suggested Wednesday that cable operators with programming interests are less credible on rate hike issues than independent cable companies with no programming ties.
"At a certain level, when I hear the vertically integrated cable operators call for programmers to rein in their spiraling costs, I am reminded of someone who is preaching temperance from a barstool," said Markey, an influential House Democrat.
Markey's comments came in a speech here to the American Cable Association, a small-operator lobbying group that has been waging a protracted battle against The Walt Disney Co. and other large program suppliers regarding costs and tie-ins.
Markey, who said he was "increasingly concerned" about rising cable rates, has unsuccessfully lobbied Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, for hearings on the cable market.
The top Democrat on Upton's panel, Markey said he wants to examine whether cable operators should have the power to purchase and sell networks a la carte; whether cable operators should be forced to disclose the per-channel cost of programming on monthly bills; and whether Congress needs to open the market to independent programmers.
"I will stipulate to all of you that Congress, the Republican Congress, is not yet ready to legislate in any of those areas," Markey said. "But it is vital to begin gathering data and looking at the obvious problem areas so that you can start to home in on remedies if the marketplace fails yet again to correct the problems itself."
Markey said he had no plans to offer legislation before a hearing.