What is a “broadcast TV fee?”

I thought we were done with that a decade ago. It seems everything old is new again. Even though providers like DIRECTV stopped charging for locals a long time ago, Time Warner Cable is resurrecting the practice with a “Broadcast TV Fee.” This is a way for them to advertise a low price and then sock on the extra charges once you get in.

Time Warner Cable says that broadcasters are charging exorbitant prices for retransmission of their signals. In that, they’re right. However, by breaking out a charge for local channels instead of including them, they’re essentially charging you twice for the same thing and still keeping their advertised prices low.

Folks, this is the downside of “a la carte” programming. Rather than offer a single price for a package that includes the minimum number of channels that folks want and need, every little charge is broken out so that the base rate can be kept low. What can you do? Time Warner does not allow over-the-air recording on their equipment, so in order to avoid this fee you would need a separate DVR just for locals. At that point why bother with their equipment at all?

In some cases, cities require cable companies to carry local channels as a condition of their special status. At that point you’re paying this fee even though you have no choice and therefore that makes the advertised price pretty much irrelevant.

It’s enough to make you want to ditch the cable company completely and go with an antenna and streaming subscription, isn’t it? Yet, the majority of people will just lay back and take it, thinking “what can you do?” And at some level they’re right… the average person doesn’t have the power to fight back against content provider fees. They rely on their cable or satellite operator to do that for them, and do it with honesty and integrity.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 9,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.