US Cable Firms Talk Tough on Industry Reforms

16 November 2007

WASHINGTON DC: US cable TV firms have threatened court action in their fight against industry reforms proposed by top media regulator Kevin J Martin.

The Federal Communications Commission chairman has raised many hackles with his planned curbs on some industry practices.

Executives believe Martin has turned his radar in their direction - after many years of seeming indifference - because of their persistent refusal to entertain a la carte programming.

Martin has been pushing for companies to offer a pick-and-mix service rather than bundles of channels as a way to bring down costs and offer more choice to consumers.

The companies have dug in their heels and refused to budge, citing increased competition from satellite TV and telcos as the reason for their stance.

Thunders Kyle McSlarrow, president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association: "We'd much rather have a better relationship [with the FCC], but we're not going to fundamentally wreck a business model and hurt our customers to appease one chairman of the FCC."

Martin is expected to ratchet-up the tension at the next meeting of the watchdog's five commissioners who, under 23-year-old laws, can flex their regulatory muscles over the cable industry once 70% of consumers subscribe to services and 70% of households can receive them.

Both those thresholds have reportedly now been crossed, although two of the commission's members have questioned the accuracy of the data.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff