Martin Backs Cable Antitrust Suit

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Washington – Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin, measuring his words carefully, Tuesday effectively endorsed last week’s antitrust suit that seeks to force cable programmers and operators to sell TV networks on an a la carte basis.

After repeating that he wanted cable a la carte to happen as result of voluntary action, Martin said, “I am supportive of any and all efforts to try to establish consumers having the ability to pick and choose their channels.”

The suit, filed in federal court in Los Angeles on behalf of few cable and satellite TV subscribers, alleged that pay TV distributors and programmers are violating antitrust law because subscribers are denied a la carte access to TV networks sold in bundles with dozens of other channels.

The FCC has no legal authority to require a la carte, according to Martin. Last year, Martin supported a Senate bill that would allow a cable company to offer video without local approval if channels were provided a la carte.

A few months ago, Martin endorsed a House bill hat would make cable companies rebate consumers that had blocked channels they did not want to receive in their homes.

“No matter what, consumers deserve and should have the right to pick and choose their channels,” Martin said. “I’m supportive of any an all efforts that would allow that, but what I would like to see, sure, is people offer a la carte voluntarily.”

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