Broadcasters: Back for More

Your Fees Bolster Broadcasters' Bottom Line

Every three years, Golden West is required to renegotiate retransmission consent agreements with affiliate broadcast stations (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC).


What are retransmission fees?

Since 2009, affiliate broadcast stations began charging for passing, or retransmitting, their signal to cable or satellite television customers. The federal regulations allow affiliate broadcast stations to charge cable customers for over-the-air programming.

In 2012, each Golden West TV customer paid about $2.50/month for retransmission fees. In 2022, just ten years later, it’s pushing over $24/month. Broadcasters will look for even more in the future.

Who profits from retransmission fees?

You might think it’s Golden West or even the local stations, but out-of-state corporate stockholders are actually the ones raking in the dough. A handful of national media conglomerates operate the majority of affiliate broadcasters, including most of the broadcast stations in South Dakota. In 2016 alone, broadcasters collected $7.7 billion dollars in retransmission fees from cable and satellite customers across the country.

To be clear, the retransmission fees on your Golden West bill go directly to the affiliate broadcasters. Golden West does not keep even one cent of retransmission fees.

Why do customers pay for channels that are free with an antenna?

Broadcasters use the public’s airwaves at no cost as a gift from taxpayers, so local channels are broadcast for free. However, you can only get them free if you use an HD antenna and live close enough to a broadcast tower to get a signal. Many rural South Dakotans are unable to receive reliable signals with an antenna, and providers like Golden West help expand the broadcasters’ reach. Regardless, affiliate broadcasters choose to exploit and profit from people who want or need to receive local channels through cable or satellite TV.

What happens next?

Golden West will be fighting to keep your retransmission fees in check and your local channels on. Unfortunately, when it comes to negotiations, affiliate broadcasters hold the upper hand. If we don’t accept their demands, each broadcaster can force us to remove their channel and leave you in the dark. Until regulations change, or the affiliate broadcasters end their greedy money grabbing, customers will likely see increasing retransmission fees on their cable TV bill.