That wasn’t the precise topic of the Senate Commerce Committee hearing today. (It had the boring title: “The Cable Act at 20.”) But the question — as well as ones about whether the federal government over-regulates media — bubbled underneath the discussion of problems including higher-than-inflation annual pay TV price hikes, and contract disputes that sometimes result in blackouts of consumers’ favorite channels. Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W Va.) says that there’s too little competition in a system where pay TV customers “are still forced to pick larger and larger packages of channels no matter how few they watch.” His view resonated with Colleen Abdoulah, a witness who chairs the American Cable Association which primarily represents small and mid-sized cable operators. She says that broadcasters make “crazy payments for sports (rights) because they can be forced onto consumers…This abuse of power should be outlawed.” Mark Cooper of the Consumers Federation of America also called for changes that would enable pay TV customers to just buy the channels they want. “The only way to break the market power (of major networks and programmers) is to ensure consumers have choices.” (more…)