LIES THE CABLE TV INDUSTRY TOLD ME
The Cable Industry’s Lies about Programming Diversity and A la Carte
The cable lobby has launched an effort to undermine proposals by consumer advocates that would help break the economic lock that a few companies have over multichannel programming. Under a new A la Carte system, subscribers could choose and pay only for the channels they wished to watch. Today, in contrast, subscribers have to accept a “bundle” of channels from cable operators. Cable conglomerates control this bundle and are able to make monopoly profits off the channels they include. In the words of media scholar Mark Cooper of Consumer Federation of America, this amounts to a “media concentration tax.”
Desperate to fend off a requirement for A la Carte, the cable industry has engaged in various lobbying ploys. One specious argument is that today’s cable line-up is diverse. The industry’s claims that many of its channels, which feature niche perspectives including those serving women and persons of color, would be threatened in a system in which consumers don’t have to accept the cable-approved programming bundle. In Washington, DC, cable has employed its lobbyists to generate opposition to A la Carte. On June 23, for example, a Time Warner representative helped organize an anti-A la Carte meeting that featured spokespersons from several cable channels, including Oxygen, TV One, and Si TV, whose questionable ownership pedigrees are described below.