With the cable rate increases set to be put on trial by a Senate panel Thurs, the message across town at CTPAA’s Forum Mon was ‘just say no to a la carte.’ During his EchoStar [DISH] days, Charter [CHTR] pres/CEO Carl Vogel saw the DBS provider try a la carte and it didn’t work. "I don’t think it’s practical," he says. TV One pres/CEO Johnathan Rodgers’ objections are more sociological. Would white Americans choose his African-American net under an a la carte model? "Probably not," he says during Forum’s opening session. "Should they see this channel every now and then? Absolutely. Yes." A la carte is seen by some inside the Beltway as the answer to scaling back cable’s rate hikes, but the Forum panel argues that DC isn’t getting the full picture. "The cost of programming would go up," Insight [ICCI] pres/CEO Michael Willner insists. "It would be very difficult to launch a new idea. Most of the channels today would not exist. You have to ask if you want to really limit the expansion of programming ideas." Another DC policy play on everyone’s lips was indecency, with Willner saying the challenge for cable is to identify itself as a different service than broadcast. Rodgers suggests MSOs ask programmers what they are doing for the public good. "I think you have a right to ask," he says. While programmers and operators on the panel seemed to see eye-to-eye on most issues, one area of disagreement was relations between the 2 factions. (Clever move by moderator and Comcast exec Torie Clarke having Willner pretend to be a programmer with Rainbow’s Josh Sapan playing an operator). "It’s never been more polarized than it is today, which is a reach travesty," Scripps Nets pres affil sales, intl dev Susan Packard says. Some of the problems over rising sports costs are trickling down to nets like hers, she notes. Willner cautions against judging relations by a few very public battles, saying that most relationships are healthy. "Most of the time we’re in sync with each other," he says. — CTPAA Tidbits: CTPAA’s board voted to get involved in the "Only Cable Can" campaign. The association will partner with CTAM and the MSO Marketing Council to work on local PR efforts that emphasize cable’s differentiation vs satellite. — A Chicken in Every Pot and HD in Every Home: Stressing that PR pros need to live with their products, Comcast svp, marketing/new products Andy Addis says his company is working with CE makers on a possible employee purchasing program where HD sets could be bought at very aggressive rates. — NCTA’s Robert Sachs is expected to release a policy plan on indecency during this morning’s session.