Need more proof that the a la carte debate has very little to do with economics and everything to do with content regulation? Well, here's Parents Television Council's Brent Bozell in the Los Angeles Times yesterday commenting on his desired outcome of an a la carte regulatory regime:
"Maybe you won't have 100 channels, maybe you'll only have 20. But good programming is going to survive, and you will get rid of some waste."
Well isn't that nice. Mr. Bozell is fine with consumer choices shrinking so long as what's left on the air is the "good programming" that he desires. It just goes to show that, as I argued in an essay earlier this week, the fight over a la carte is really a moral battle about what we can see on cable and satellite television.
But is Mr. Bozell correct that a la carte "will get rid of some waste" on cable and satellite TV? As I suggest in my essay, it's highly unlikely because one man's trash is another man's treasure. The networks that Mr. Bozell considers "waste" (Comedy Central, F/X, MTV, Spike, etc.) happen to be some of the most popular channels on cable and satellite today. And it's likely to stay that way, even under an a la carte regulatory regime.
So, despite the crusade to "clean up" cable, people will still flock to those networks in fairly large numbers. And the channels that Bozell & Co. want everyone to get (religious and family-channels) could be threatened by a la carte if too few people choose to continue subscribing.