Martin Says Congress Could Mandate A La Carte


FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's push for cable a la rate just became a shove.

The chairman said Tuesday that Congress may want to mandate a la carte as a way to help viewers deal with controlling indecent and/or violent content.

That came in a House appropriations committee hearing where Martin was defending his agency's budget but also responding to questions about content issues.

According to an industry observer at the hearing, Martin was asked about indecency and explained that he had been suggesting a la carte to the cable industry as a way to control content and prices, but that the industry had not been receptive to the suggestion. He then agreed with one legislator that it might be time for Congress to step in and that that would be a good thing.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association reacted swiftly to the suggestion.

"Its unfortunate that Chairman Martin continues to promote government-mandated a la carte when the vast majority of evidence shows it would raise prices for most consumers and harm diversity in programming," said spokesman Brian Dietz.

"U.S. cable and satellite providers currently offer their customers the most diverse selection of programming found anywhere in the world," Dietz said. "A mandated a la carte system is a lose-lose proposition--it jeopardizes the broad diversity of programming that American consumers enjoy while raising prices for less choice."

The FCC is preparing to release a report on TV violence saying that TV has gotten more violent, that violence has an effect on kids, and that Congress can change the law to give the commission the power to regulate violence.

Martin has made a la carte one of the central issues of his chairmanship, even pitching it to Madison Avenue. He even commissioned his own study finding it was a viable economic model for cable--which the industry disputes--after his [predecessor, Chairman Michael Powell, had produced a report saying the opposite.

The Alliance for Diversity in Programming also took issue with Martin on a la carte.

"It's unfortunate that Chairman Martin continues to push for a la carte," said alliance co-chair Johnathan Rodgers. "While sounding simple on its face, [it] is a concept that most civil rights organizations and economic analyses agree is likely to raise consumers' rates and stifle program diversity."