Minority Groups Pan Martin Plan


The leaders of 15 minority groups last Thursday took a stand against structural changes to the cable industry supported by Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin.

The groups spoke out in a letter against a Martin proposal that would allow cable operators to exclude from their most popular programming packages any channel that demanded more than 75 cents per month, per subscriber at the wholesale level.

“We don’t believe the chairman’s proposals for wholesale a la carte — including the so-called '75-cent solution’ — will result in any benefit for consumers,” the groups said in a letter addressed to all five FCC members.

Among those who signed it were Dr. E. Faye Williams, national chair of the National Congress of Black Women; Lillian Rodriguez-Lopez, president of the Hispanic Federation; and Chance Mitchell, co-founder and CEO of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

The letter stressed the same message that cable-industry leaders have been sending in response to Martin’s efforts to allow consumers to buy cable programming on a per channel basis — that mandated channel unbundling would raise cable rates and force channels aimed at women and minorities out of business.

“To be quite clear, the evidence is overwhelming that retail a la carte pricing is a poorly thought out policy idea,” the letter said. “Wholesale a la carte fares no better. It would deliver the same devastating effect on programming enjoyed by minority communities, while offering no benefit to these audiences whatsoever.”

Martin has claimed the consumers want more a la carte options and that they believe they could lower their monthly cable bills under such a system. Martin has also endorsed a regime in which consumers could receive rebates for blocking channels they did not want to watch.

Martin recently told reporters he does not have a time frame for advancing his wholesale a la carte proposal.