McCain A La Carte Bill Gets Lead Co-Sponsor

Conn.’s Blumenthal Is First Democrat to Sign On to Unbundling Effort

WASHINGTON — It’s been more than three months since Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced his a la carte bill, but the measure has secured its first Democratic co-sponsor in Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

Blumenthal said Tuesday (July 23) he had agreed to be co-lead sponsor on the Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013, which McCain introduced on May 9.

“Consumers should not have to pay for programming they don’t want or watch,” Blumenthal said in announcing his support. “The current antiquated, anti-democratic system imposes all-or-nothing cable packages that give consumers no control over their cable bill, and prevent subscribers from voting with their feet when they are unhappy.”

The bill was introduced to much fanfare, but handicappers see slim to no chance of the legislation making it to the president's desk.

 McCain’s bill would require programmers to make their channels available to cable operators on an à la carte basis, and would not allow the bundling of co-owned cable channels and TV stations in carriage negotiations. It would also abolish the sports blackout rule for teams that play in stadiums funded by public money.

The measure would also require a broadcaster to deliver cable operators a signal that’s identical to the one they deliver over the air — with a carve-out for local commercials — or they would have their broadcast license pulled and spectrum reassigned.

 “Senator Blumenthal is standing up for millions of cable customers by co-sponsoring the Television Consumer Freedom Act," Free Press Action Fund president and CEO Craig Aaron said in a statement. "This bill would help consumers everywhere who are paying high prices for dozens — sometimes hundreds — of channels they don’t want and will never watch."