At the Federal Communications Commission’s open meeting today, the Commission is scheduled to examine programming tying arrangements. The Commission is reportedly entertaining the possibility of forbidding such arrangements.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has relentlessly castigated the cable industry for rising costs, and has steadfastly advocated moving to an a la carte approach to selling channels as a means of controlling costs.
All the while, the cable industry has argued that a major contributor to rising costs is a particular practice of programmers. Large programmers force cable system operators to a) pay more and more for popular channels and b) force operators to take additional channels in a package with the popular channels.
The approach – tying – eats up bandwidth (denying space for other networks) and drives up costs. Disney, owner of ESPN, is notorious for the practice, but is hardly the only company that engages in it.
In an apparent capitulation to the cable industry, the FCC will examine b) – the issue of tying arrangements. Item a) is apparently outside the Commission’s scope of influence.
Though discussing the issue suggests the Commission gives credence to cable operators’ complaints, it may be Martin’s way of giving up something in order to get what he wants – a la carte programming. The cable industry’s argument is that a la carte will radically change the pay TV model, and not for the better.