In this story, three people are talked to by the reporter, a representative of Charter Cable Company, a cable industry analyst, and a cable TV subscriber. Of these three voices, the consumer is for the a la carte plan while both the cable company executive and the analyst are opposed. That the representative from Charter Cable is critical of this proposal is not surprising, cable companies have been uniformly opposed to a la Carte programming nationwide. Nor is it surprising that the analyst, Steve Effros, is opposed, as he is the former head of the Cable Telecommunications Association, which represents cable companies. This background information is not presented in the story, rather, Effros is framed as an unbiased source. The only person shown speaking in favor of this proposal is a random cable subscriber interviewed on the street. No voices from the FCC or from any consumer advocacy groups that support the a la carte proposal are presented in the story. The reporter does mention that according to an FCC study, consumers could save up to 13% on there cable bills. The viewer is not told the name of the study, nor how it can be found. The Cable industry analyst makes claims that virtually every analysis of a la carte says the customer winds up paying more, and getting less. The reporter does not provide any verification on this claim. Nor does the reporter ask any follow up questions when the spokesperson from Charter Cable states that We should continue to provide those video services offerings under a free enterprise system rather than having mandates dictated to us from Washington DC. Given that cable companies have franchise agreements with municipalities that guarantee them with a local monopoly on cable service, it would seem reasonable for a reporter to ask how the current cable system represents a model of free enterprise.
Newsreader #1 – It’s a debate that started on Capital Hill and could end in your living room, a la Carte cable.
Newsreader #2 – It’s an idea being pushed by the Federal Communications Commission to help cut the costs of cable. Fox 17’s Mike Avery has more on this hot button issue in tonights consumer hard drive.
Unidentified voice – You have HBO, then you have Cinemax Reporter – A la carte, a system that prices each item separately, it’s that idea that’s being applied to the cable television industry by the federal government, allowing consumers a choice in which programming they want, and paying for just that.
Troy Hayes (cable customer) – For instance I’m going to go in the store here and I’m going to have a choice of options of what I’m going to buy, from no brand cheese to Craft cheese, you know I get what I pay for, I think its a great idea.
Reporter – But the cable industry doesn’t like the a la carte idea, citing losses in advertising revenues, and higher subscription fees for consumers.
Dan Spoelman (Charter Communications) – We should continue to provide those video services offerings under a free enterprise system rather than having mandates dictated to us from Washington DC.
Reporter – Industry analyst Steve Effros agrees. Steve Effros – Having been here for over thirty years in Washington, I’m pretty safe in saying that when the government gets its hand in just about anything, the unintended consequences usually out weigh what they were trying to do.
Reporter – A la carte is being driven by the FCC, Senator John McCain has even drafted legislation trying to reduce consumers cable bills. In fact, a recent report by the FCC says consumers could save up to 13% on their bill through a la carte. Effros says it’s misleading.
Effros – This is why virtually every analysis of a la carte says the customer winds up paying more, and getting less. They get fewer channels and it costs them more. Spoelman – Effectively in an eighty channel package that you have today, you would pay the same amount for about four channels.
Reporter – But one consumer we talked to today says being able to pick your own channels is worth it. Hayes – And i think it’s the same thing with cable, that as long as I’m getting what I paid for, then I shouldn’t complain about how much it costs, I’m getting what I paid for.
Reporter – But at what cost? According to Effros, there’s plenty to be lost.
Effros – If you did it the other way, if you said alright, only the programs I want to buy, are the ones that are going to come into my home, you would probably destroy the ability of smaller channels to survive. And so diversity gets lost in the process. And we think that’s a very bad idea.
Reporter – That depends on who you ask. In Grand Rapids, Mike Avery, Fox 17 News at ten.