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Published On: Thu, May 9th, 2013

John McCain introduces cable television bill, seeks to give consumers more choice, eliminate sports blackouts

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) introduced a bill today in the Senate, which is designed to give consumers more control over their viewing options, aka “a la carte”.

Heather O Rourke Poltergeist photo TV setThe legislation, Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013, according to McCain would, (1) encourage the wholesale and retail ‘unbundling’ of programming by distributors and programmers; (2) establish consequences if broadcasters choose to ‘downgrade’ their over-the-air service; and (3) eliminate the sports blackout rule for events held in publicly-financed stadiums.

“The video industry, principally cable companies and satellite companies and the programmers that sell channels, like NBC and Disney-ABC, continue to give consumers two options when buying TV programming: First, to purchase a package of channels whether you watch them all or not; or, second, not purchase any cable programming at all.

“This is unfair and wrong – especially when you consider how the regulatory deck is stacked in favor of industry and against the American consumer”, said McCain.

This is clear when one looks at how cable prices have gone up over the last 15 years, which is brought to light by the most recent Federal Communications Commission pricing survey.

“In this FCC survey, the average monthly price of expanded basic service for all communities surveyed increased 5.4 percent over 12 months ending January 1, 2011, to $54.46 compared to an increase of 1.6 percent in the Consumer Price Index. Over the last 15 years, this rise in costs becomes even more evident. According to the FCC, the price of expanded basic cable has gone up at a compound average annual growth rate of 6.1 percent during the period from 1995 to 2011. This means the average annual cable price has gone up from about $25 a month in 1995, to over $54 today.

“That’s a 100 percent price increase.

“But, those who provide video directly to consumers, like cable and satellite companies, are not solely to blame for the high prices consumers face today. Many articles have been written about the packages of channels, commonly called ‘bundles,’ sold to cable and satellite companies by video programmers like Comcast-NBC, Time Warner, Viacom and The Walt Disney Company, which owns 80 percent of ESPN. The ‘Worldwide Leader in Sports,’ as ESPN calls itself, thrives because of the advertising revenue it is able to generate and large subscriber fees.

“According to a January 2012 Newsweek article, ESPN charges roughly $4.69 per household per month citing research from SNL Kagan. By comparison, the next costliest national network, TNT, takes in $1.16 from about as many homes. So whether you watch ESPN or not, and admittedly I do all the time, all cable subscribers are forced to absorb this cost. For instance, because these channels are bundled into packages, all cable consumers, whether they watch sports or not, are paying for them anyway.  Cable and satellite carriers that consider dropping ESPN must also contemplate losing other channels in the bundle, like the Disney Channel.

My legislation would eliminate regulatory barriers to a la carte by freeing-up multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) – like, cable, satellite and others offering video services – to offer any video programming service on an a la carte basis.

“Notably, my bill offers no mandates, regulations and is entirely voluntary.”

McCain’s bill will face intense resistance from the industry. Many of the industry’s top lobbyists question if the senator still has the juice to get such a bill off the ground. McCain is no longer a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which has oversight over the FCC and the media industry.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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    […] for President of Television by introducing bill that would …A.V. ClubFierceCable -The Global Dispatch -The Vergeall 86 news […]

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