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Is the ability to choose satellite programming the best deal for consumers?
The FCC released a new report last week concerning a second study on the bundling of TV programming packages in the satellite TV and cable industries. The study concluded consumers could be saving money by ordering only the channels they thought they wanted. However, this was a second study. The first study, released 15 months earlier, had the opposite conclusion, bundling programming was best for consumers. So which position is the FCC really taking? Which option helps American consumers save money on their cable and satellite bills? Is unbundling TV programming a viable solution?
Is a la carte programming politically motivated?
If the bundling study was motivated simply by a question of economics, it would be one thing. But there are political motivations involved as well. The key political motivation is from the conservative right who feel it’s unfair for consumers to pay for programming that contains objectionable content. They contend consumers shouldn’t be forced to pay for content they don’t want coming into their homes. The FCC can only censor content that is sent freely over the airwaves.
Major content providers have reacted to this situation by offering “Family Programming” packages that feature select channels at a lower monthly price. Both major satellite providers DISH Network and DirecTV recently announced the availability of family packages. DISH rolled theirs out very quickly in February for .99 a month – about less than any other DISH Network package combination. DirecTV has plans to release a family package in mid-April. Cable providers also followed suit in hopes that demand for “a la carte” programming would subside.
TV broadcasters have argued being forced to provide service on an a la carte basis would force smaller channels with niche audiences to go off air due to the unwillingness of consumers to subscribe. Broadcasters think specialty channels like