How do they determine that a customer is being charged for it? If they were to line item it on the bill and put a $0.00 beside it, are they still charging for it? If they were to open up their system to let everyone with an old box have free access to the locals via satellite would this pass the non-charging test?
Think about it. DirecTV and DISH could sell old boxes that they have no use for as locals only boxes that receive locals and not charge anyone for them. I doubt they would lose enough customers that it would matter and they would not have to pay the local stations. Win-win.
There is merit in your idea... I don't know if there is too much bad blood by now between the carries and the broadcasters to allow such a thing, though. But it would be a good compromise. Those old boxes if they were rigged as LiL-only boxes would become essentially no different than the digital converter boxes that many people have to use for their older TVs now anyway.
As for the cost... it has become murky. In the early days they did have (at least Dish did) a $5 line-item on their bills for locals... so it was easy to see you were being charged $5 for locals. Then, at some point, they decided to essentially make everyone take locals so they started saying "locals included" and rolled that $5 into the base package price... so while there is no doubt we are being charged for the locals, there is no longer a clear line item that indicates it.
The "irony" is that the broadcasters are also profiting from "people stealing and profiting from their signals" by increasing the number of viewers which increases the value of the broadcasters' product.
Yeah... but if I steal cars from the local dealer and sell them to people who like them and it gives those cars and that dealer good word-of-mouth reputation... it doesn't negate that I made money on selling something that was not mine legally to sell in the first place.
Having any accidental positive benefit to the injured party doesn't negate the original theft. I rob your house, your neighbors have sympathy and give you money to help you replace things... I still get arrested for theft even if you come out ahead after the donations.
I wonder how long it will be before content creators go after public libraries. If a library buys a DVD and a thousand people view it, that surely reduces the sale of that DVD.
I don't know how this is handled... but it is already handled. Libraries do the same thing with books... you could argue that libraries eat into book sales too... but libraries operate in a specific way, and they are specifically permitted to loan out the DVDs and books and whatnot that they purchase. It probably also helps that libraries do not charge you to check out a book or DVD unless it is in the form of a late-return or no-return fine.