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Concerned Women Push a la Carte

With Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) at their sides, Concerned Women for America Wednesday kicked off a campaign to get cable and satellite operators and programmers to offer their service buffet-style.

They released a study saying that 80% of respondents "think cable customers should not 'be required to pay for a basic package of programming that might include channels that they don't want to view.' " They have also taken out an ad in USA Today and bought radio spots to make their case.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association responded that "The opinion poll is badly flawed because those surveyed clearly weren't informed of the negative impact of a la carte.  Our guess is that if consumers were asked whether they'd prefer to have cable or satellite service for free, they'd also answer with a resounding 'yes.'"

McCain and Deal come at their support for so-called a la carte cable from slightly different directions. McCain has long been looking for a way to reduce subscribers' cable bills, while Deal is focused on giving them more control over the content that goes into their home, particularly the racy fare that has Washington so hot and bothered of late.

Deal is proposing an amendment--to a satellite reauthorization bill--that would give satellite companies the ability to offer per-channel, customer-customized lineups, something programmers currently do not allow, arguing that a la carte cable threatens niche networks, not to mention the entire programming model.

After the CWA press conference, McCain wondered aloud whether there would be  time to tackle any of several controversial proposals--including Deal's a la carte proposal--in a full satellite re-authorization bill, suggesting instead it could be just a straight renewal of the old law.

The House Judiciary Committee is slated to consider copyright provisions of that satellite reauthorization act in a hearing Thursday.