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Charter Starts Itemizing Retrans Bucks in Taxes/Fees Portion of Cable Bills

In the latest salvo in the retrans 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," says Charter.

Charter has
notified its franchisees as it would "anything new" that concerns
customers in their communities," according to a spokeswoman.

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

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 has been
passing along retrans payments to customers already, said the
spokesperson, but will now itemize that charge for its customers. The
charges will start showing up on the October

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.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.