PTC Joins Call for Rehearing of Bundling Class Action Suit

Say forced bundling suppresses competition; cable ops counter that unbundling raises prices, reduces programming diversity
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Longtime a la carte fan the Parents Television Council has filed an amicus brief seeking a full court rehearing of a class action antitrust suit against cable operators for program bundling.

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit upheld a district court decision that there was no antitrust claim since it did not allege any injury to competition.

Plaintiffs in that suit have petitioned for re-hearing, saying that the panel ignored "the plain words of the complaint, misapplied controlling Supreme Court precedent, and announced an illogical and pernicious turn in [antitrust] jurisprudence."

They say that their complaint alleges that programmers have imposed "industry wide contractual restrictions"[program bundling] that suppress competition among distributors."

PTC, joined by the Consumer Federation of America, Concerned Women for America, Morality in Media, agrees that the Ninth Circuit panel got it wrong. "Currently, consumers who subscribe to cable and satellite television services are forced to buy bundles of cable network programming, much of which they do not want and do not watch," said PTC President Tim Winter in announcing the brief. "The result is that American consumers are being fleeced. When you go to the movie theater, you buy a ticket to the show you want to see, not to all 10 theaters in the cineplex. Why must a family that wants Nickelodeon fork over cash every month to MTV, VH1 and Spike?"

Cable operators have argued that forced unbundling would reduce programming choice, decrease diversity in programming, and raise prices for most customers. They also use a different analogy, pointing out that the bundling business model supports newspapers, which don't sell their sports pages or other sections a la carte.

PTC and other groups concerned about content argue that consumer should have more control over what channels they do and don't want coming into their home over cable and satellite.

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