Serendipity vs. À La Carte
By Larry Aidem -- Broadcasting & Cable, 7/16/2006 8:00:00 PM
The United States is multicultural, multilingual and multifaceted, a vibrant and robust nation of ideas.
These diverse voices are in evidence in the wide variety of programming available on cable and satellite TV. Scores of channels beckon, highlighting a range of interests and serving a quintessentially American audience, which represents a broad mix of ethnicity, heritage and points of view.
Sundance Channel is proud to be part of that mix, making available to millions of Americans the kind of quality independent films that find only limited distribution.
Broadening choice for cable customers via à la carte regulations would have just the opposite effect, reducing the number of viewing alternatives, diminishing diversity in programming and raising costs for most customers.
Not unlike the Sundance Film Festival, started to offer alternative choices to movie-goers, Sundance Channel was created to broaden the TV-distribution platform for independent artists so their films could be more widely seen by audiences looking for alternatives.
Distributors like Time Warner, Comcast and DirecTV allow Sundance Channel to significantly broaden the audience for independent voices in a way that wouldn't be possible through à la carte.
Basic-cable packages make niche channels available to millions of homes. That helps those networks survive, and viewers gain because they get more channels for less money than if the channels were sold separately.
Enactment of à la carte would crush that. In fact, over 50% of TV viewing occurs via surfing, or tuning into programming that a viewer happens upon as opposed to making a conscious tune-in decision. Limiting viewers to specific channels ordered in advance eliminates serendipity and changes the TV experience. À la carte would hardly seem to drive choice.
Most government and independent studies acknowledge the problems. One government report says à la carte would have “serious implications for diversity.” The coalition against à la carte is made up of women, children and families, the left and the right politically, and a broad expanse of ethnicities.
Organizations representing African-Americans and Latinos have warned Congress of the disastrous impact on programming diversity and choice. Executives from networks serving Asian, Latino and African-American audiences sent a strongly worded letter to key senators explaining that their ability to reach audiences would evaporate.
Multiplicity of voices makes our nation great. Let's not imperil that gift with à la carte regulations curtailing the many voices and viewpoints on television today.
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