FCC Chairman Kevin Martin Suspects "Astroturfing" By Cable Companies

It seems that nearly everyone wants

la carte cable, so where is it? FCC Chairman Kevin Martin gave a speech in which he suggested that most of the “grassroots” opposition to

la carte cable is really the result of a well-organized lobbying effort by the cable companies.

According to Ars Technica, Chairman Martin quickly came under attack by minority groups who “felt their views were being unfairly dismissed.” Martin apologized, and in his apology made a very convincing argument for why

la carte cable would help promote more diversity in programming.

He referenced a report from the Center for Public Integrity that shows that cable companies fund minority groups in order to shift the debate about

la carte cable. (The idea being to scare people into thinking that with

la carte cable, minority programming would all but disappear.)

In his statement, Martin says:

According to a Neilsen Media Research report, the average cable subscriber is paying for more than 85 channels that she doesn’t watch in order to obtain the approximately 16 channels that she does.

While I believe that all consumers would benefit from channels being sold in a more

la carte manner, minority consumers, particularly those living in Spanish speaking homes, might benefit most of all. Currently, cable and satellite providers often require subscribers to purchase dozens if not hundreds of channels in order to get Spanish language programming for which they must pay an additional cost. Under

la carte, however, Spanish speaking homes could purchase only Spanish speaking channels.”

Martin also cites a report about the Black Family Channel, which recently had to discontinue broadcasting via cable because it could not find enough distribution in order to attract advertisers. The channel presented a satellite provider with a leather bound book full of 4,000 signatures from people who said they would like to view the channel, but the provider still refused.

Martin also states:

Indeed cable rates have more than doubled in the last 10 years. Cable companies often point to the increased number of channels being offered as an explanation for the increase in prices. This explanation, however, ignores the fact that the channels are not actually being watched.

We personally watch, like, 4 channels. We must watch Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, Weeds, WGN baseball, and a certain football team. For this we pay way, way, way too much.

Read Kevin Martin’s Letter (PDF) [FCC]