Commisso: McCain Is Right, Programming Problem Rests with Wholesalers

Mediacom chairman Rocco Commisso isn't ready to embrace Sen. John McCain's proposal of full-blown a la carte, but has a pat on the back for the Arizona Republican's identification of wholesale distributors (programmers) rather than retailers (cable operators) as the cause of what both Commisso and McCain argue is a broken marketplace.

"While I do not think that a 'full' a la carte system - voluntary or mandatory - is necessarily desirable or viable, action that will compel programmers to allow cable companies greater control over how networks are offered would be highly beneficial for consumers," Commisso wrote to McCain and members of the Senate Commerce Committee. The letter comes on the eve of the Communications Subcommittee hearing at which McCain is speaking about his new a la carte bill.

"As your comments make clear," said Commisso, "it is the practices of content licensors at the 'wholesale' level that, at the 'retail' level, force consumers to pay billions for channels they do not want."

McCain's bill would force broadcasters with co-owned cable channels to unbundle those carriage negotiations, and would also require cable operators to offer broadcast channels a la carte or lose their compulsory license.

Commisso has long complained to the FCC and Congress about bundled programming deals and retrans impasses, a point he reiterated in the letter.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.