In the latest salvo in the retransmission-consent battles, cable operator Charter Communications has started itemizing the price increases it says it is having to pass along to customers because of retransmission-consent deals
On its Web site, Charter explains to customers that they will start seeing a "Broadcast TV Surcharge" in the "taxes and fees" section of their cable bills. "These local TV signals were historically made available to Charter at no cost, or low cost. However, in recent years the prices demanded by local broadcast TV stations have necessitated that we pass these costs on to customers," according to Charter.
Charter defines the charge as a "pass through reflecting charges assessed to Charter by the owners of local broadcast, or local 'network-affiliated,' TV stations. It points out that while some broadcasters have not asked for payment for carriage -- the ones who elect must-carry -- but that "other local TV stations require significant payment from Charter, and it is their charges that are reflected in the Broadcast TV Surcharge."
Federal law requires cable bills to be "fully itemized," including, "but not limited to," basic, premium, and
equipment charges. But the "taxes and fees" section traditionally features things like Universal Service Fund contributions, E911taxes, sales taxes and other government-issue obligations.
Charter joined with Time Warner and other cable and satellite operators earlier this year to ask the FCC to fix what it says is a "broken" retrans system skewed in favor of broadcasters to the detriment of consumers and their wallets.
"Given cable's well-documented history of raising rates 4-6 times the annual rate of inflation, it seems rather disingenuous for them to now claim their rate hikes are coming as a result of broadcast TV stations, which provide the highest-rated entertainment and local news programming on the cable line-up," said NAB Executive VP Dennis Wharton in response to Charter's move.