Entries in John McCain (3)


McCain Proposes Bill Allowing for ‘A La Carte’ Buying of Cable Channels

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has introduced a bill in the Senate that would let you get HBO without paying for the DFH Network, defying a powerful telecom industry that is vociferously opposed to allowing pay per channel options.

The “Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013″ would let consumers buy cable channels “a la carte,” something the Netflix and Hulu generation has been clamoring for to the trepidation of telecom giants.

“You want to watch one television program, you can watch it. If you don’t, you don’t have to. The situation today is obviously far different from that,” McCain said introducing the bill in the Senate Thursday.  “That’s unfair and wrong, especially when you consider how the regulatory deck is stacked in favor of industry against the consumer.”

For avid fans of Girls, or Game of Thrones, McCain is speaking to their deepest desires. The ability to subscribe to HBO Go, without paying Comcast, Verizon, or the Dish Network nearly $100 a month has for a long time seemed like a fantasy.

And it may yet be.

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association, which spent $200,000 on lobbying the federal government in 2013, is strongly opposed to the bill.

“In a thriving marketplace that is constantly providing consumers with new services and features, a government-mandated a la carte system is a lose–lose proposition,” they said in a statement. As countless studies have demonstrated, subscription bundles offer a wider array of viewing options, increased programming diversity and better value than per channel options. In today’s video marketplace, consumers enjoy more choice than ever before.”

And the NCTA’s lobbying pales in comparison to the $14.86 million that Comcast spent on lobbying in 2012.

McCain says that the cost of cable has spiraled out of control, which is only possible if large cable and satellite companies have a monopoly.

“People are on fixed incomes, people are hurting. Why on earth should they have a 100 percent price increase?” McCain said. “And the only way that could be done is through monopolies.”

McCain’s bill would tie the availability of copyright licenses that allow providers to protect their content to the voluntary offering of a la carte channels.

On the other side of the issue are smaller cable companies, represented by the American Cable Association, who support McCain’s efforts, which may help open some room in the telecom marketplace for smaller carriers.

Sen. McCain’s new bill highlights a point that many, including ACA, have been making for a long time, which is that programmers use their formidable market power to impose tying-and-bundling requirements on unwilling distributors. The result is that consumers must subscribe to large pay-TV packages that are populated with dozens of unwanted channels.

McCain’s bill also deals with another vexing issue for television watchers: sports blackouts.

His bill would also prevent sports blackout for games broadcast from publicly funded stadium -- which is to say a lot of stadiums.

According to Deadspin, which compiled data on stadium construction, tax dollars financed more than 60 percent of the cost of building or renovating the 186 sports stadiums constructed between 2009 and 2012.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


TD Ameritrade Shies Away from Political Spotlight

Chris Machian/Bloomberg News(WASHINGTON) -- Kim Hillyer, director of communications and public affairs for TD Ameritrade, was forthright about the sticky situation her company finds itself in, thanks to founder and former CEO Joe Ricketts' announcement that he's interested in launching a Super PAC to attack President Obama.

“It’s certainly a difficult situation,” said Hillyer, referring to the calls from clients and members of the public prompted by Thursday’s news, first reported by the The New York Times. “We respect the right of people to have their opinions, but as a company we can’t take sides. Really what we’re about is helping our clients, that’s the message we’re telling people today.”

The campaign garnered considerable attention Thursday because of a pitch to Ricketts and his Ending Spending Action Fund that suggested an attack on the president based on the comments of his former religious and spiritual leader, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr., an attack the campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., refused to do because of the racial animus it might conjure forth. Both the Romney and McCain camps disavowed the proposal.

Ricketts, a billionaire ranked on the Forbes 400 List in 2009,  retired from the TD Ameritrade board last fall, but he remains publicly identified with the company as its founder. His family is the largest individual shareholders, owning approximately 15 percent of the company. The company is an online broker based in Omaha, Nebraska.

Says Hillyer, “Obviously he is the founder of the company, but his thoughts, opinions and activities are not those of TD Ameritrade. His political work is independent from any involvement with the company.”

The Super PAC he is funding has stated its intent to spend at least $10 million on its activities. Last month, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Ricketts sold 521,988 share of common stock in the company for $20.04 Per Share – worth $10.46 million.

So does it bother TD Ameritrade that he appears to be cashing in TD Ameritrade stock to run this campaign? “We have many shareholders and we can’t legislate what people do with their money,” Hillyer said.

Hillyer wanted to make sure that a reporter had seen the statement from Brian Baker, president of the Ending Spending Action Fund, noting that Ricketts is “neither the author nor the funder of the so-called ‘Ricketts Plan’ to defeat Mr. Obama that The New York Times wrote about this morning. Not only was this plan merely a proposal – one of several submitted to the Ending Spending Action Fund by third-party vendors – but it reflects an approach to politics that Mr. Ricketts rejects and it was never a plan to be accepted, but only a suggestion for a direction to take. Mr. Ricketts intends to work hard to help elect a President this fall who shares his commitment to economic responsibility, but his efforts are and will continue to be focused entirely on questions of fiscal policy, not attacks that seek to divide us socially or culturally.”

“His political activities are not those of the company,” Hillyer said again.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Senate Considers Privacy 'Bill of Rights' to Protect Consumers

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. consumer privacy laws are, to put it bluntly, a mess.  We have sectoral laws that provide different protections for financial information, cable and phone subscriber records, health privacy and yes, video rentals.

But we are the only country in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development except for Turkey that fails to provide baseline protections for consumer data that is collected online and offline.

Every day, our personal data are scattered across the Internet and beyond to advertisers, social network sites, data brokers, direct marketers and the myriad of companies we do business with.  And our privacy laws simply haven't moved in step with the way our capacity to collect, process and share our personal information.

The Federal Trade Commission has pushed about as far as it can with its limited power to go after bad guys for unfair or deceptive practices, but that case-by-case focus on instances where companies deceive consumers is just not enough.  Companies simply hide behind ponderous and undecipherable privacy policies that do nothing to protect privacy, written by lawyers who are looking out for their companies -- not you.

But we might make progress yet.  A recently introduced a bill from Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) would create for the first time a commercial privacy "Bill of Rights."  It is the first comprehensive privacy bill in the Senate in more than a decade.

The bill would require basic Fair Information Practice Principles for all companies that collect personal data both online and offline.  In practice, this means you get clearer, more timely and understandable notice when your information is collected.

Companies will have to tell you exactly what they are planning to do with your information, collect only what they need to accomplish that purpose and only hold on to your data as long as they need it for the stated purpose.  You will be able to opt out of third party advertising and that opt-out needs to be global and persistent over time.

Security rules will be strengthened, as will the right of consumers to access the information that a company holds about you.  If it's wrong, you can fix it.  Both the FTC and State Attorneys General would have power to enforce the new law and impose significant civil penalties for violations, up to $6 million in civil fines.

The bill also has a requirement that companies engage in "Privacy by Design," which means they have to have internal processes in place to consider how to protect privacy as a product or service is first developed.

Finally, in order to make sure that these high level obligations can be tailored to different industries, the bill encourages companies to collaborate with consumer groups and others to develop industry-specific codes that incorporate and build upon the law's requirements.  It is then up to the FTC to review those codes and approve the ones that pass muster.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio