MMTC Opposes a la Carte

The Minority Media & Telecommunications Council opposes forcing an a la carte service model on cable.

In a letter to key congressmen, including House Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton, ranking member John Dingell, and Senate Commerce Chairman John McCain, MMTC Executive Director David Honig said that a requirement that cable systems offer their service in a buffet style, with subscribers able to build their own lineups, would hurt diversity.

"By locking in the current channel lineup and locking out new multicultural channels," he said, "a la carte would unintentionally deprive the next generation of viewers of a broad spectrum of programming and opinions."

Honig argued that viewers would not purchase the new, minority-targetted channels, so they would have no chance to sample them. It is the same argument the cable industry is making against buffet cable service, a point not lost on Honig

He pointed out in the letter that since the cable industry is using the same argument against a la carte, i.e. that it would disadvantage the multicultural channels on their systems, they should pledge to make sure that their basic and expanded basic tiers include "channels provided by minority-controlled companies and feature channels provided by companies that embrace diversity in their workforces."

Legislation blocking programmers from discouraging or preventing operators from such offerings is currently being tied to a reauthorization of the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act. McCain is known to support mandated a la carte, but there is currently no legislation to that effect.

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.