Echostar CEO Charlie Ergen, who is burdened by a propensity for candor, gave away the endgame of a la carte mandates clear in the Senate Commerce Committee testimony yesterday. He will do a la carte offerings to consumers if Congress authorizes the FCC to regulate the programmers. It seems, you see, these programmers have rather unique goods, for which they can extract a lion's share of the producer surplus paid by viewers to operators. If only the FCC regulates away what is, in essence, the situational monopoly power that, say, Disney has with ESPN, will operators be able to at last give Americans their deep, abiding, just-discovered right to a la carte programming.
Of course, I see no reason to stop there. After all, what is a channel other than a bundle of programs, some of which I don't want to see. Accordingly, the regulatory power must be extended so I have the "right" to only purchae certain programs, not whole channels. Likewise, because the news pages of the Wall Street Journal drive me batso because of their unrelenting wet blanket distaste for enterprise and property, I want the right to only buy the editorial page, where I get a reassuring dose of pro-market thinking. If we are comfortable with regulation defining acceptable content offerings, there is no compelling reason to stop at the channel level, or the bundled newspaper level.
This a la carte right of mine must be exercised everywhere!