A class-action antitrust lawsuit filed today in Los Angeles argues that the U.S. pay-TV industry amounts to a "cartel" that maintains profits by offering channels in prepackaged tiers rather than "a la carte."
The suit names every major cable and satellite television system operator as well as every major cable and broadcast television network.
Antitrust lawyer Maxwell Blecher alleges in the legal action that the complex web of contractual arrangements among service providers and networks amounts to a "monopoly or cartel" that has "deprived consumers of choice, caused them to pay inflated prices for cable television and forced them to pay for cable channels they do not want and do not watch."
Blecher contends cable and satellite television subscribers should be able to choose only to pay for the channels they actually want to watch.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin has said such a system would require federal legislation.
In the past, the cable TV industry has argued that an a la carte system would lead to higher prices, less programming diversity, fewer channels and reduced advertising dollars.
The industry has said such a system also would require more customer service representatives, higher billing costs and higher marketing costs.