NCTA, Disney to Bow a la Carte Studies

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In a move likely to escalate tensions with Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin, the cable industry is releasing two studies Wednesday designed to refute a recent Martin-backed study that concluded that the a la carte sale of cable networks could benefit consumers.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Associations and The Walt Disney Co. are planning to unveil the economic studies at a press conference in Washington, D.C., about five weeks after release of the FCC report. Disney is the majority owner of ESPN, the popular sports network adamantly opposed to distribution outside of the expanded-basic tier.

In November 2004, the FCC issued a report that supported the cable industry’s view that a la carte would lead to higher cable rates and reductions in program diversity.

After becoming chairman last March, Martin secretly ordered the agency’s chief economist, Leslie Marx, to prepare a new report that would discredit the version approved by FCC chairman Michael Powell. Martin disclosed the findings of the Marx report last Nov. 29 before the Senate Commerce Committee.

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