(WASHINGTON) — Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has introduced a bill in the Senate that would let you get HBO without paying for the DFH Network, defying a powerful telecom industry that is vociferously opposed to allowing pay per channel options.
The “Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013″ would let consumers buy cable channels “a la carte,” something the Netflix and Hulu generation has been clamoring for to the trepidation of telecom giants.
“You want to watch one television program, you can watch it. If you don’t, you don’t have to. The situation today is obviously far different from that,” McCain said introducing the bill in the Senate Thursday. “That’s unfair and wrong, especially when you consider how the regulatory deck is stacked in favor of industry against the consumer.”
For avid fans of Girls, or Game of Thrones, McCain is speaking to their deepest desires. The ability to subscribe to HBO Go, without paying Comcast, Verizon, or the Dish Network nearly $100 a month has for a long time seemed like a fantasy.
And it may yet be.
The National Cable and Telecommunications Association, which spent $200,000 on lobbying the federal government in 2013, is strongly opposed to the bill.
“In a thriving marketplace that is constantly providing consumers with new services and features, a government-mandated a la carte system is a lose–lose proposition,” they said in a statement. As countless studies have demonstrated, subscription bundles offer a wider array of viewing options, increased programming diversity and better value than per channel options. In today’s video marketplace, consumers enjoy more choice than ever before.”
And the NCTA’s lobbying pales in comparison to the $14.86 million that Comcast spent on lobbying in 2012.
McCain says that the cost of cable has spiraled out of control, which is only possible if large cable and satellite companies have a monopoly.
“People are on fixed incomes, people are hurting. Why on earth should they have a 100 percent price increase?” McCain said. “And the only way that could be done is through monopolies.”
McCain’s bill would tie the availability of copyright licenses that allow providers to protect their content to the voluntary offering of a la carte channels.
On the other side of the issue are smaller cable companies, represented by the American Cable Association, who support McCain’s efforts, which may help open some room in the telecom marketplace for smaller carriers.
Sen. McCain’s new bill highlights a point that many, including ACA, have been making for a long time, which is that programmers use their formidable market power to impose tying-and-bundling requirements on unwilling distributors. The result is that consumers must subscribe to large pay-TV packages that are populated with dozens of unwanted channels.
McCain’s bill also deals with another vexing issue for television watchers: sports blackouts.
His bill would also prevent sports blackout for games broadcast from publicly funded stadium — which is to say a lot of stadiums.
According to Deadspin, which compiled data on stadium construction, tax dollars financed more than 60 percent of the cost of building or renovating the 186 sports stadiums constructed between 2009 and 2012.
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