Networks reject 'à la carte' TV

The broadcaster advocacy group TVFreedom is pushing back on a new Senate plan that would let cable and satellite subscribers pay for only the broadcast channels they want to watch.

The “à la carte” proposal hits broadcasters too hard and does too little to change other problems in the marketplace, according to TVFreedom Director of Public Affairs Robert Kenny.

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The plan “fails to address cable and satellite TV’s deceptive billing practices, excessive equipment rental fees and surprise charges fueled by market failures that result in increasing monthly pay-TV bills for consumers,” Kenny said in a statement. 

“Instead, it curiously targets America’s most-watched programming — broadcast TV — as the culprit for rising cable bills even though these channels collectively amount to a pittance on the price of a monthly pay-TV bill.”

TVFreedom represents the giants of the broadcasting industry, including ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC affiliate associations and the industry’s lobbying arm, the National Association of Broadcasters.

Last week, Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) — chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Commerce Committee — unveiled a plan to let cable and satellite subscribers pay for only the broadcast channels of their choosing.

The plan would take aim at “some of the most troubling aspects” of the way broadcasters negotiate with cable and satellite companies for compensation, according to Commerce Committee staff.

The proposal was applauded by some cable and satellite groups, and comes as the Senate looks to reauthorize the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act, which expires at the end of the year and governs the satellite TV marketplace.

A part of that law allows more than 1 million Americans to get certain programming via satellite. The House passed its reauthorization bill earlier this year.

In a statement last week, the National Association of Broadcasters said it doubts that the reauthorization bill “is an appropriate vehicle” for broader video marketplace reforms.

“Given the shortness of time between now and the end of the Congressional session, we question whether there is sufficient time for key committees in Congress to give this proposal the thorough review that is warranted,” the group’s Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton said.

TVFreedom amplified and expanded on those concerns, calling the plan a “last minute proposal” that “fails to offer consumers real programming choices or serious economic relief, yet forces them to continue overpaying for rarely watched cable channels such as Spike TV and TruTV.”

“Poll after poll shows Americans are fed up with pay-TV business practices,” Kenny said.

“Unfortunately, this proposal offers little solace for beleaguered viewers.”

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