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PTC Files Amicus Brief in Ninth Circuit Case Seeking to Unbundle Cable Programming

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Brief Cosigned by Consumer and Family Organizations
LOS ANGELES (July 19, 2011) – The Parents Television Council™ filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to hear a class action antitrust lawsuit (Brantley v. NBC Universal) against the cable industry for requiring consumers to pay for bundles of programming.  According to the Federal Communications Commission, U.S. consumers are forced to overpay on their monthly cable subscription fees to the tune of more than $100 million per year because of the industry’s product bundling.

The PTC was joined in its brief by a diverse group of national consumer and family organizations, including: The Consumer Federation of America, Concerned Women for America, Morality in Media, Family Research Council Action, Citizens for Community Values, Arizona Family Council, and Illinois Family Institute.

“The cable industry in the United States operates like a cartel and has insulated itself from free market principles because of its massive economic power. Consumers, not the cable industry, should decide which networks they purchase every month. We urge the Ninth Circuit Court to put an end to this massive anti-consumer con,” said PTC President Tim Winter.

“Currently, consumers who subscribe to cable and satellite television services are forced to buy bundles of cable network programming, much of which they do not want and do not watch. The result is that American consumers are being fleeced. When you go to the movie theater, you buy a ticket to the show you want to see, not to all 10 theaters in the cineplex. Why must a family that wants Nickelodeon fork over cash every month to MTV, VH1 and Spike?

“Some cable, satellite and telco video distributors have publicly stated their desire to provide unbundled programming and smaller bundles of programming, but the programmers won’t allow it. Even Time Warner, a defendant in this very lawsuit, affirmed the presence of the vice-like bundling grip the programmers hold in a recent statement filed with the FCC.

“Leslie Moonves, President and CEO of CBS, told a packed conference hall at the National Association of Broadcasters meeting that ‘cable is the only media business in the world where money doesn’t follow eyeballs.’ Moonves is right and the cable cartel knows it,” Winter continued.

“When News Corporation purchased the Wall Street Journal, it would have been unthinkable for executives to restrict consumer choice by forcing every newsstand to sell the Journal only as part of a larger bundle of newspapers. Yet when News Corp. launched Fox Business Network, that’s exactly what they did. No one asked cable consumers if they wanted the new network or if they wanted to pay an additional fee each month to receive it.

“How is it possible that during the direst moments of this economic recession every major media sector was being battered financially with the exception of cable network programmers? Cable networks actually reported record profits. The simple answer is that free market forces do not apply to the cartel-like practices of the cable industry. It’s high time for that fact to change,” concluded Winter.

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