Rep. Deal Hammers Cable Cos.

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On today's cable a la carte menu: nose beans, Stripperella on a Spike and Marijuana lollipops. Interested? Read on.

Despite a flurry of recent activity, the fight to make cable sell channels a la carte appears dead for this year, and faces an uphill battle next year.

Frustrated by the industry’s bid to thwart such a mandate, Rep. Nathan Deal, the chief House supporter of the idea, let loose his frustration on big cable companies Wednesday during a hearing on options for making cable systems sell networks individually rather than in large, fixed bundles.

Many a la carte supporters believe single channel sales will lower cable bills, but Deal wants to give families a way to reject racy channels they don’t want. Echoing arguments made by independent cable operators, he blamed “five or six mega-production” programming conglomerates for pushing program contracts that forbid operators from selling channels one by one to subscribers.

The Georgia Republican blasted Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons for musing a while back that a la carte supporters must have “beans in their noses.”

Deal said cable execs should explain why families who want to watch SpongeBob on Nickelodeon must also buy Spike TV’s Stripperella. “If that same philosophy applied everywhere, candy stores would be required to sell marijuana,” he complained.

House Commerce Committee leaders Joe Barton and Fred Upton, said they will keep an open mind about a la carte until an FCC study is completed in November, but said they take seriously industry warnings that a la carte will kill off some weaker channels.

Among a la carte opponents have been some programmers with minority-targeted channels.

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