À la Carte Would Help Consumers
I would like to take a moment to respond to J. Max Robins’ comments [“Our First Priority,” 1/12, p. 8] regarding à la carte cable/satellite service. There is indeed a role for government intervention in the market, but the appropriate intervention is probably not a mandate to force cable operators to offer à la carte service.
So what should the government do?
I believe it is appropriate for the government to take a long, hard look at the contracts imposed on cable and satellite services by the programming networks—contracts which largely prohibit the offering of popular networks on an à la carte basis.
These contracts are anti-competitive and contrary to the public interest. Like the Hollywood “block-booking” deals of the past, they should be struck down by the government in order to allow the market place to work effectively.
With this action, the government would allow alternative providers (such as EchoStar or perhaps some new video-over-IP service) the opportunity to sell programming on an à la carte basis.
Local cable operators would be able to decide how to respond (or not respond) to this competition based on their own business needs and the needs of their customers.
À la carte service would succeed or fail on its own merits, instead of being artificially suppressed (as in the current marketplace) or forcefully imposed (as in a government mandate).
There is no excuse for maintaining a status quo that seems to do little but artificially prop up licensing fees at the expense of ever higher monthly bills to customers for services that they may neither want nor need.
Fight for First Amendment
A bang-up commentary by Max Robins [“Our First Priority,” 1/12, p. 8]. 2006 promises to be an odd year, First Amendment-wise, and it helps to have B&C urging affected industries to show some intestinal fortitude. A spine is a terrible thing to waste.
Davis Wright Tremaine LLP