Miley Cyrus Antics Add Pressure for the Television Consumer Freedom Act

August 31st, 2013 9:29 AM

Consumers have good reason to wonder why they have to pay for cable channels they don't watch. Most cable customers enjoy only a fraction of the channels on their services but end up supporting them all every time they write a check to Comcast or similar providers.

The hullabaloo over Miley Cyrus's sexualized performance during Sunday's Video Music Awards presentation gave bundled cable opponents another very good argument. Why should consumers support a channel like MTV which brings such content into their homes?

Fox News reports that Cyrus's poorly received act is putting pressure on Congress to more seriously consider the Television Consumer Freedom Act which would give consumers the option to only pay for channels they want.

   As it stands now, cable networks are part of TV packages so consumers cannot buy one without buying others. But in May this year, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the system an “injustice being inflicted on the American people,” and introduced the “a la carte cable bill” – which was co-sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) – in Congress. There are currently no roll call votes on the bill, and it remains in limbo. However, supporters stress that the recent MTV VMAs pointed out the urgency for its passing.

Such a bill still faces steep odds, and industry forces contend the results would be higher prices, and less choices, for consumers.

   However, the Television Consumer Freedom Act has been severely criticized by industry experts and distributors, who claim that cable bundles lower the price for everyone as strong channels can be discounted in return for less popular networks. ESPN opposed the potential legislation which could “cost consumers significantly more money for dramatically less,” while the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) charged that such government intervention was unnecessary.

Another force working in favor of bundled cable opponents--streaming content. The latest wave of home entertainment. led by Netflix, is making cable industry types sweat over the increased competition and flexible services streaming provides.