Markey Doubts Some MSOs on Rates


Washington -- 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," Markey said.

Markey's comments came in a speech here to the American Cable Association, a
small-operator group that has been waging a protracted battle against The Walt
Disney Co. and other large program suppliers regarding costs and tie-ins.

Saying he was "increasingly concerned" about rising cable rates, Markey has
unsuccessfully lobbied Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House
Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, for hearings on the cable

Markey, the top Democrat on Upton's panel, 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 hone 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.

In response to a question, he praised the partial a la carte deal between
Cablevision Systems Corp. and Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network as a
"big step forward."