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PTC Praises Court for Hearing Cable Class-Action Suit

The Parents Television Council Friday praised a U.S. District Court's decision to allow a class-action suit against cable operators over bundled service to go to trial.

"We applaud the federal court’s decision allowing the class-action antitrust suit to proceed to trial on the merits of the complaint," PTC president Tim Winter said. "It is a breath of fresh air to know that cable consumers still have a voice in our court system. Sadly, the consumer’s voice in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere has been muted by the cable industry’s enormous wallet."

The multimillion-dollar class-action suit -- filed last September by veteran antitrust attorney Maxwell Blecher on behalf of 14 cable and satellite subscribers from a variety of cities -- said the companies violate antitrust laws by bundling programming in expanded-basic tiers.

The plaintiffs asked the federal district court in Los Angeles to stop the firms from “bundling expanded basic-cable channels and ordering defendant cable providers and direct-broadcast satellite providers to notify their subscribers that they each can purchase 'a la carte' [separately] except for 'basic cable.'”

A spokesperson for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association was not available for comment, but when the suit was filed, the NCTA pointed out: “Several government and private studies have shown that required a la carte would lessen programming choice, decrease diversity in programming and raise prices for most cable customers.”

Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin has been pushing the cable industry to unbundle programming at the wholesale and/or retail level, saying that it would be consumer-friendly in terms of cable bills and control over content.