Buying cable channels individually could save consumers money, FCC report says

Allowing cable television customers to pick only the channels they want would not cost them more than the current bundle packages offered by cable companies, according to a recent report by the Federal Communications Commission.

A turnaround from a previous report issued by the agency, the study has raised the possibility of creating an “a la carte” cable system in which cash-strapped students could purchase only the cable channels they want and parents could have more control over what their children watch.

“In a bundle scenario, they have to pay for every channel even if they find one morally objectionable. Under a scenario where a la carte is an option, families can say, ‘this is too violent for my family, I can avoid this channel entirely,'” said Kenneth DeGraff, policy advocate for Consumer Union, the organization that publishes Consumer Reports magazine.

The specific option could save most customers 3 percent to 13 percent on their cable bill, the new FCC report said.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., plans to introduce legislation that would create a tax incentive for cable providers that offer an a la carte option.

“The report confirms what I have believed for years, if consumers are allowed to choose the channels their families view then their monthly cable bill will be less,” McCain said.

Cable providers have long said that an ‘a la carte’ service would put some networks out of business.

Some networks might not fare as well as others if people start to pick and choose. Currently, Congress orders local broadcast stations to be included in basic cable packages.

‘A la carte’ faces tough hurdles from major corporations if Congress chooses to put it into legislation but consumers may feel that they want the right to choose.

“The cable company picks and chooses what you want. You don’t get to vote to with your dollars,” said DeGraff. “Congress and the FCC need to step in to make sure (customers) have the full range of choices.”

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