I’m starting to get worried that the partial à la carte mandate in the decidedly Orwellian “Local Choice” proposal wasn’t merely an August reverie. The leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee, which floated the proposal to the press, have neither disavowed it nor introduced an alternative. Could the Committee actually be serious about a proposal that is so flatly irreconcilable with the ideals of constitutional government?
I hope not. The proposal is a blatant case of the government concealing an effort to pick winners and losers in the marketplace behind a masque of consumer protection. Its approach to problem solving goes like this:
- Disputes between video programmers and video distributors sometimes result in blackouts that prevent consumers from watching certain channels.
- The government should protect consumers from blackouts by mandating that programmers sell their channels on an à la carte basis.
- Both cable and broadcast channels have been blacked out during disputes.
- The Local Choice proposal would nevertheless apply the à la carte mandate only to broadcast channels.
- Consumers would receive no protection from blackouts involving cable channels.
The proposal doesn’t explain why consumers don’t need to be protected from cable channel blackouts — like the one involving Dodgers baseball games in Los Angeles — because Senate Committees aren’t in the habit of admitting to industry favoritism.