U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), has introduced a bill that would allow cable TV subscribers to buy individual channels, rather that more expensive channel “bundles,” and limit the National Football League’s ability to “blackout” local TV coverage of its games.
The main part of Sen. McCain’s Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013 (S. 912), would offer incentives to cable TV providers to “unbundle” their programming and allow their customers to select exactly which channels they pay for.
“For over 15 years I have supported giving consumers the ability to buy cable channels individually, also known as ‘a la carte’ — to provide consumers more control over viewing options in their home and, as a result, their monthly cable bill,” said McCain in introducing his bill.
As the Senator pointed out to his fellow lawmakers, consumers continue to have only two choices when buying cable TV programming: “Purchase a package of channels whether you watch them all or not; or, not purchase any cable programming at all.”
“This is unfair and wrong – especially when you consider how the regulatory deck is stacked in favor of industry and against the American consumer,” said Sen. McCain. “This is clear when one looks at how cable prices have gone up over the last 15 years, which is brought to light by the most recent Federal Communications Commission pricing survey.”
According to the FCC survey cited by McCain, the nationwide average cost for basic cable TV service has increased from about $25 a month in 1995 to over $54 today. “That’s a 100 percent price increase,” said the Senator.
And Goodbye to NFL Blackouts?
Sen. McCain’s Television Consumer Freedom Act would also prohibit the always unpopular National Football League (NFL) practice of “blacking out” TV coverage of non-sold out pro football games in cities whose teams play in taxpayer funded stadiums.
“When the venues in which these sporting events take place has been the beneficiary of taxpayer funding, it is unconscionable to deny those taxpayers who paid for it the ability to watch the games on television when they would otherwise be available,” McCain stated. “Therefore, the bill proposes to repeal the sports blackout rules insofar as they apply to events taking place in publicly financed venues and/or involve a publicly financed local sports team.”
Just for the record, Sen. McCain’s favorite NFL team, the Arizona Cardinals, play their home games in the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Opened in 2006, the 63,400 seat, retractable-roof University of Phoenix Stadium was built at a total cost of $455 million, $308 million (68%) of which was provided by local taxpayers.
In fact, only one of the 20 NFL stadiums opened or renovated since 1997 has been constructed totally with private funds and without any taxpayer support: the $1.6 billion MetLife Stadium where the New York Jets and New York Giants play their home games.
Does Sen. McCain’s Television Consumer Freedom Act have a chance of passing? While the bill is supported by most cable TV consumers and football fans, it is opposed by two far better organized and magnificently funded groups; the cable TV industry and the National Football League. So let’s just say the Senator’s bill is facing 4th and 30, running into the wind on the road.
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