In a last-minute bid to be elected President, John McCain is introducing legislation aimed at pushing cable companies to allow subscribers to purchase channels à la carte (French for "without all that crap"), as opposed to being forced to buy “a whole bunch of channels that that consumer may not want wish to subscribe to”—all part of a plan that he’s calling the Television Consumer Freedom Act. McCain, definitely no fan of being imprisoned by things, has had it with cable companies bundling their networks and forcing people to purchase great swaths of basic cable hinterland they never venture into, just to get their nice little acre of preferred entertainment. It’s a proposal McCain has made before—seven years ago, in fact—but as Americans increasingly look to other options that allow them more control over what they watch, it seems the time may be ripe for revolution. (Plus, this new bill has “Freedom” right in the title, and who’s going to vote against that?)
Of course, as the L.A. Times points out, there’s probably not much reason to rush onto the Senate floor, hoist McCain on your shoulders, and proclaim him the new President Of Television just yet. For one thing, McCain no longer serves on the Senate Commerce Committee that oversees the media industry, so his influence has waned somewhat. For another, his bill introduces things that seem certain to rile not only cable companies, but broadcast networks and even the owners of professional sports teams: One provision would strip the licenses from any broadcasters who downgrade their programming or move it to cable—as Fox and CBS have recently threatened to do, in response to Aereo’s streaming of network shows over the Internet. Another would eliminate the long-suffered sports blackout rule that allows teams to keep games off your TV if tickets remain unsold, making it illegal to do so as long as those teams play in stadiums built with taxpayer money. (As in, almost all of them.)
In short, McCain is taking on a lot of powerful lobbies here all at once—and even if he somehow succeeds in overcoming them and pushing this legislation through, like so many well-intentioned bills, it will surely have plenty of unintended negative consequences. Most immediately and obviously, cable companies will almost certainly hike the prices of the most-desirable individual channels, until old-fashioned bundling looks far cheaper. (Cable companies like to make money.) Still, however much of a lost cause this campaign may turn out to be, it’s nice to see John McCain taking a break from Benghazi to go after something important.
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