NBC Universal Fighting A La Carte Proposals At FCC


NBC Universal, a major cable TV programming supplier, is urging federal regulators to refrain from intervening in the "highly competitive" marketplace between program owners and pay-TV distributors.

"There's no legal or factual basis for government intervention in private carriage negotiations. The public interest will not be served by government interference in his highly competitive marketplace," NBC Universal said in an FCC filing Monday.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin has the agency reviewing various proposals, including one that  would require cable programming suppliers like NBC Universal to allow pay-TV distributors to purchase channels on an unbundled or a la carte basis.

"Government mandated wholesale a la carte is beyond the commission's legal authority," NBU Universal said.

NBC Universal officials Robert Okun, Margaret Tobey and William LeBeau raised their company's concerns in meetings last Friday with FCC member Jonathan Adelstein and his legal adviser Rudy Brioche, the company's filing said.

Tobey and LeBeau met separately on Sept. 17 with Rick Chessen, media adviser to FCC member Michael Copps, the filing said.

NBC Universal has one of the largest inventories of cable channels, including such brands as CNBC,  Oxygen, Bravo, MSNBC, and USA Network. 

On several occasions, Martin has said that FCC staff wasn't working on wholesale a la carte rules.

Earlier in the year, Martin voiced support for a policy in which any programmer seeking per-subscriber fees of 75 cents or more on a wholesale basis could be stripped from expanded basic by cable operators.

Small cable operators, led by the American Cable Association, have been pushing the FCC to adopt wholesale unbundling rules. They claim big programmers use their market clout to force-feed them channels they don't want, causing retail rates to rise.

ACA would also establish the FCC as the arbitrator of wholesale pricing disputes.