Paying for local HDTV?

From today’s TVPredictions, this story about Belo Corporation, a broadcasting company that’s telling cable companies in its markets that they’ll have to pay to carry Belo’s broadcast HDTV signals:

But Jim Rothschild, director of operations for the Belo-owned KMOV in St. Louis, said Charter should pay because the high-def channel helps the cable operator sign — and keep — customers.
“We are simply asking Charter to share some of the value that it gets from our HD investment. They pay national channels for HDTV services, so they should also pay local channels,” he told the newspaper.

If I were Rothschild, I wouldn’t go there. Local affiliates have long complained that they need protection from “distant locals” on satellite or cable, and Congress and the FCC have gone along with them because the “local locals” have been freely available OTA and on local cable. If broadcasters now want to start charging for carriage of their signals, that’s just going to increase the likelihood that, say, Buckeye Cable will be able to buy HD affiliate signals from (say) Detroit and insert ads, just as they do for some national HD signals. That’s not good for local affiliates or the holding companies, like Belo and Raycom, that own them.

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