AirTalk for May 10, 2013

McCain introduces bill that overhauls cable TV business

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Fans react as they watch a men's football game.

Disgruntled cable subscribers tired of paying for channels they never watch have a new advocate in the form of Senator John McCain. The Arizona lawmaker yesterday introduced the Television Consumer Freedom Act 2013, which would give cable viewers the right to choose which channels they want to buy.

Currently, television networks like Viacom and Disney sell their channels to cable companies in bundles. The bill would force these networks to unbundle their products, giving cable companies the ability to purchase channels a la carte. The thinking is that cable companies would thus be incentivized enough to let customers do the same thing.

This is Senator McCain’s second attempt to rein in out-of-control cable bills. His 2006 bill fizzled and went nowhere.

Is giving consumers the right to cherry-pick which channels they want to pay for the best way to lower cable bills? Consumer groups think so, but the cable industry argues that a la carte would actually hurt consumers.

Guests:

Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog

Steve Effros, cable industry analyst and former head of the Cable Telecommunications Association


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