It is currently possible to discover how much (roughly) Cox spends on programming through stockholder reports and information that must bemade available to stockholders on request. With Cox's being taken private, announced this morning (and blogged by Mike) it will be much more difficult than even it is now to come to a rational conclusion about whether Cox's pricing policies are fair.
Most of the Salina Journal story is about local numbers but the following closing remarks are more widely relevant (emphasis mine):
Most of the nation’s cable companies, including Cox, have announced rate increases, as have their main competitors, satellite television providers. Higher programming and operating costs are the reason, Peck said.Deregulating a natural monopoly simply does not work. Most of the country can only hope for price relief by turning to the bandwidth-limited alternative to cable, satellite TV. Few will have, as it now seems Lafayette will, the opportunity to move to public provision through the bandwidth-superior technology of fiber optics as way of ensuring local control, controlling costs, and making sure that our alternative is technologically unlimited. We should thank our lucky stars.
Across the country, consumers now pay 56 percent more for cable than in 1996 when cable rates were deregulated.