The cable industry's largest trade group is opposed to legislation that would
require the breakup of large programming packages into small tiers -- a step
some support to address the rising price of sports networks such as The Walt
Disney Co.'s ESPN.
"We don't think there is a regulatory one-size-fits-all solution here. We
think if companies go to Congress to resolve their differences, there is always
the law of unintended consequences, and we would oppose legislation in this
area," Robert Sachs, president of the National Cable & Telecommunications
Association, told reporters Wednesday.
Earlier in the month, Cablevision Systems Corp. chairman Charles Dolan
testified before the Senate Commerce Committee that Congress should consider
barring programmers from demanding carriage on the most widely penetrated
James Robbins, president and CEO of Cox Communications Inc., while denying
support for legislation, told the panel he favored removing from expanded basic
any network that costs him more than $1 per month, per subscriber.
ESPN, which insists on expanded-basic carriage, denounced a la carte and
sports tiers as anti-consumer.
Because the NCTA represents both operators and programmers, the trade group
has to consider the interests of those constituencies. Its long-standing policy
regarding operator-programmer disputes has been to urge the parties to settle
their problems in private and not reach out to government.
"Washington is not a venue to resolve business issues," Sachs said.
On a related subject, Sachs said he expects the Federal Communications
Commission to return to cable-ownership issues in June, following completion of
the hotly contested broadcast-ownership rulemaking.
The FCC's release of new cable-ownership rules has been delayed for