A la Carte
While FCC chmn Kevin Martin continues to tell reporters that no one is working on a wholesale a la carte order, the number of filings coming in on the issue has FCC watchers convinced otherwise. Case in point is Mon’s filing from ACA, saying that there’s no truth in the notion that wholesale unbundling would have a significant negative impact on the amount of minority-interest programming available. The group says that programmers by and large do not use their market power to ensure carriage of minority-focused channels. For example, Viacom doesn’t bundle its marquee nets with any of its minority channels, such as BET and Logo, in deals with small ops, nor has NBCU bundled any of its recently acquired Telemundo nets, ACA said. Only Disney can claim minority bundling to some extent, but ACA adds that "Disney’s deal—which requires carriage of ESPN Deportes when ESPN is carried—only applies to small cable operators who already offer a Spanish language tier, a subset of providers who would be interested in carrying this programming whether bundled or not." Meanwhile, Sen Commerce leaders sent their own letter to Martin Mon telling him to focus on the DTV transition, not wholesale unbundling. "Pursuing contentious policy objectives, such as the unbundling of wholesale subscription television channels, would divert the attention of the Bureau at this critical time," said the letter signed by Sens Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX). Martin briefly touched on wholesale bundling during a call with reporters Fri. After complaining once again about rising cable rates, he noted that "a significant number of cable operators have said that the bundling of channels in leading to the increase in consumer prices."