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ACA, Martin Agree On Wholesale A La Carte

Washington – Small cable operators, offering support to Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin, are seeking federal regulations that would require major programmers like Disney and Viacom to wholesale channels on an individual or a la carte basis.

The American Cable Association said its support for so-called wholesale a la carte requirements was an attempt to stop the channel-bundling practices of national content providers with market leverage over the small, independent cable companies ACA represents

“This change would create a realistic option for [cable operators] to purchase channels other than in bundles mandated by programmers. At the same time, programmers would remain free to offer programming in bundles and charge different rates for channels purchased on a standalone basis, so long as those rates were reasonable,” ACA said in FCC comments filed Friday.

Martin is concerned that when cable and satellite-TV providers have to buy programming in bundles, they are buying more than they want and consumers end up paying for channels they don’t wish to receive.

Last year, Martin proposed rules that would require programmers to make their channels available one-at-a-time to distributors. However, he has not proposed requiring cable and satellite TV companies to retail the same channels to consumers on an a la carte basis.

 ACA, which represents 1,100 cable companies with 8 million customers, has been battling Disney, Viacom and other big programmers for many years. Martin is the first FCC chairman to embrace the group's cause.