NRB Reluctantly Opposes a la Carte

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Religious broadcasters favor a la carte cable service as a way to allow viewers to screen out "indecent or offensive content" but oppose it for its potential to do "irreparable damage to religious, independent, ethnic and niche program producers."

Without must-carry for all broadcast stations and leased-access cable programmers, the National Religious Broadcasters argued in comments to the FCC Thursday, "NRB program producers and broadcasters would be reduced to economic inviability."

In the end, that downside trumps the upside, with NRB telling the FCC it "strongly opposes" the a la carte regimen now on the table. But it also said that many of its members support a la carte in principle and object to being "required to pay for programming they consider objectionable."

NRB said it could support a la carte if the FCC 1) explicitly preserved must-carry of all broadcast stations on a basic tier and 2) required carriage of leased-access programmers on that same tier.

Prompted by a request from legislators, the FCC is considering whether and how to mandate a la carte cable service, in which viewers could assemble their own channel lineups. It is viewed by some as a way to hold down cable prices and help subscribers screen out objectionable content, and by others as a threat to niche services and cable's fundamental economic model.