Consumers Union supports greater choice in cable

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Consumers Union Supports Greater Choice in Cable

Washington, D.C.–Consumers Union praised the introduction today of bipartisan legislation that could offer consumers greater choice over the cable television channels they buy and reduce the prices consumers pay for service.
The Family Choice Act of 2006, introduced today by Reps. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) and Tom Osborne (R-NE), directs the Federal Communications Commission to issue rules that would give cable companies significant incentives to allow consumers to block channels they don’t want to receive and receive a credit on their cable bills for the cost of those channels. Under the bill, cable companies would not have to block channels offered for sale one-by-one or in “themed” tiers.
“Consumers are sick and tired of paying bloated prices for a giant package of 100 channels when they only watch a handful of them,” said Jeannine Kenney, senior policy analyst with Consumers Union, the non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports®, “and many are offended that they must pay for channels they find objectionable. This legislation offers consumers the promise of more choice of what channels come into their homes and greater control over their cable bills.”
Research shows that consumers watch, on average, just 17 cable channels, though they pay for dozens more. An AP/Ipsos poll released earlier this year found that nearly 80 percent of consumers want the option to buy channels one-by-one rather than in the large, costly, all-or-nothing packages of channels offered today. And two-thirds were concerned about sexual and violent programming. Currently, most cable providers allow consumers to block channels but still require consumers to pay for them.
The Family Choice Act requires cable companies to elect to either?

  • Comply with FCC indecency policies now applied to broadcast television;
  • Scramble any channel customers don’t want and credit subscribers’ bills for their cost. Scrambling is not required for any channels sold individually or in “themed” tiers, like sports or arts & entertainment packages; or
  • Offer a “family” tier that excludes channels with programs rated for mature audiences only or as inappropriate for viewers under 14.

Contact: Jeannine Kenney or Jennifer Fuson, 202-462-6262