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John McCain’s A La Carte Cable Bill Gains a Co-Sponsor

Connecticut's Richard Blumenthal Backs Legislation

Sen. John McCain’s proposed legislation to force cable operators to offer channels a la carte gained new co-sponsor on Tuesday, as Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) announced that he would back the bill.

Blumenthal is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which would have jurisdiction over such legislation.

“Consumers should not have to pay for television channels they don’t want or watch,” Blumenthal said. “The current antiquated, antidemocratic system imposes all-or-nothing cable packages that give consumers no control over their cable bill, and prevent subscribers from voting with their feet when they are unhappy.”

McCain said that “the government and special interests have stacked the regulatory deck in favor of preserving an outdated business model that forces consumers to buy — at ever-increasing prices — ‘bundled’ cable packages filled with channels they don’t want to watch.”

A spokesman for the National Cable and Telecommunications Assn. said they had no comment. But cable executives have argued that offering channels a la carte would actually reduce diversity, in that lesser-rated channels would struggle to survive. Meanwhile, they argue that bigger channels like ESPN could command hefty prices from consumers, perhaps even driving up their bills even further. Some noted that ESPN is based in Blumenthal’s home state.

The Television Consumer Freedom Act establishes that cable, satellite or any multichannel video operator has the “legal right’ to offer any channel on an a la carte basis. Although it was given long odds of passage, McCain has said that it has “overwhelming support” among consumers.

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