Martin said his support of a la carte programming, a position that argues that consumers should be allowed to buy channels individually rather than as a bulk package, would actually assist poorer minority groups.
He noted that a Nielsen Media Research study pointed out that an average cable subscriber was paying for 85 channels when in reality that consumer only watched 16.
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"Channel choice is increasingly significant to consumers as the number of channels included in expanded basic, and the corresponding price to consumers, has continued to skyrocket," Martin wrote. "Indeed, cable rates have more than doubled in the last ten years. Cable companies often point to the increased number of channels being offered as an explanation for the increase in prices. This explanation, however, ignores the fact that most of these channels are not actually being watched.
"While I believe all consumers would benefit from channels being sold in a more a la carte manner, minority consumers, especially those living in Spanish speaking homes, might benefit most of all," Martin said.
Those consumers typically have to buy large, expensive blocks of channels to access Spanish-language channels, he said.
Martin said that allowing a la carte purchasing could diversify programming, He cited a case where the Black Family Channel was forced to become an online-only network, after cable providers refused to offer the channel — even after the channel reached 16 million homes across the nation.
"'Cable companies act as gatekeepers into the programming allowed by the expanded basic cable package, preventing independent content producers from reaching viewers,'" Martin wrote, citing a letter written by Consumers' Union to the U.S. Congress. "'By allowing consumers to vote with their wallets rather than forcing them to buy channels they never watch, the marketplace will responding [sic] by providing more diverse and higher-quality programming than consumers demand.'"
Martin's letter was sent to the Black Leadership Council, the Hispanic Federation, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, and the League of Latin American Citizens, among others.