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PTC Launches Cable a la Carte Calculator

The Parents Television Council launched yet another salvo in its campaign to pressure cable operators to provide their programming a la carte, but even it said the menu should be taken with a grain of salt.

The PTC Tuesday was promoting the launch of a Web site,, which attempts to calculate cable bills based on a menu of network choices with associated subscriber fees -- what cable programmers charge an operator per person to carry their networks.

There is a big caveat, however. The site warns surfers: "The programming rates and distributor mark-ups presented are derived from the best publicly available information and, therefore, may not be entirely accurate. The data should not be presented as necessarily factual or accurate."

But the PTC goes on to contend that the prices might even be higher.

The PTC's basic -- make that expanded basic -- point is to suggest how cable bills would be lowered if viewers could simply choose among networks or, in the case of this site, "deselect" networks and subtract their cost.

Cable operators argued that the equation is far more complicated. For example, the site does not figure the price of lifeline basic, which comprises the TV channels that cable operators have no option but to deliver since carriage is mandated by the government.

They also pointed out that the price of the networks would go up in an a la carte world since fewer people would be taking the channels and many would have to raise subscriber fees to compensate for the decline in reach and attractiveness to advertisers.