Pushing à la Carte

In what is sure to be Muzak to cable's ears (if you actually enjoy Muzak, feel free to insert something else here that you're not too fond of), Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman (and the industry's number one pain moving about D.C. these days) Kevin Martin is reportedly seeking a Congressional mandate on so-called à la carte programming.

Martin's stronger position on this already testy issue emerged after he spoke to a House appropriations committee hearing Tuesday, the report adds, citing an observer. One of Martin's arguments is that à la carte would allow cable to keep tighter controls on content and consumer pricing.

The cable industry, among the arguments in its case against à la carte, has said such a model actually would cause consumers to pay more for the same level of service they get today.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) , which is used to defending itself on this subject, responded rapidly to Martin's latest salvo:

"It's unfortunate that Chairman Martin continues to promote government-mandated à la carte when the vast majority of evidence shows it would raise prices for most consumers and harm diversity in programming," said NCTA vice president of communications Brian Dietz, in a prepared statement. "A mandated à la carte system is a lose-lose proposition – it would jeopardize the broad diversity in programming that American consumers enjoy while raising prices for less choice.”

This, of course, is just the latest round of Martin v. U.S. Cable (See Cable Chief Slams FCC Chief and FCC Jabs Cable Costs, Pricing Policies .)

But matters remain relatively cordial. For starters, note that NCTA still addresses Martin as "Chairman." And NCTA has confirmed him as a keynoter for next month's The Cable Show in Las Vegas. If you want to reserve a seat for this fireworks display, be sure to jot down Monday, May 7, at 1 p.m. (Mandalay Bay Ballroom J) on your show calendar.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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