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Cable and satellite providers may have to advertise the true price of TV service

The FCC proposal could make streaming services more attractive.

Piotr Cichosz on Unsplash

Are you tired of TV providers advertising one price, but charging another thanks to hidden fees? You might not have to put up with that practice for much longer. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed a requirement that cable and satellite TV services "clearly and prominently" display the true cost of service both in their marketing and on subscriber bills. Companies couldn't mask programming costs as fees that only show up on your bill, hiding them behind vague or potentially misleading terms.

The measure is intended to help would-be customers make truly informed choices about TV subscriptions, including comparisons with streaming services. The move could also help boost competition between providers and help cash-strapped families avoid unpleasant surprises, FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel claims.

The proposal comes months after President Biden called on government agencies to fight "junk fees" and otherwise demand more transparent pricing for services and events. The FCC itself recently said it would require broadband "nutrition labels" that display prices and typical performance. In that light, the TV price transparency effort is mainly an extension that could outline exactly how much you'll pay for a multi-service bill.

The proposal doesn't come at a great time for conventional TV giants. Streaming TV viewership in the US (including live and on-demand) overtook cable for the first time last summer. While internet-only services aren't always better deals than cable and satellite equivalents, the increased transparency could prevent traditional companies from artificially minimizing the differences.