Sorry S., didn't mean to come off as "preachy" on the post.
Here's the scoop on FOX.
Back when FOX started (1986), they did pay their affiliates to carry the programming because...that's what the other 3 nets were doing! FOX was just "more edgy" w/their programming and that resulted in more revenue coming their way.
About the early 90's, when FOX got its first NFL/NFC contract, stripping NBC of football and causing the CBS network to switch over to carrying the AFC, FOX started CHARGING the affiliates during either the 2nd or 3rd season to be FOX affiliates. FOX had bid big bucks for football and they decided that they couldn't pay for that and pay the affiliates to carry their programming too. So...the slippery slope was open for business and it's been all downhill, for the affiliates, ever since. If I remember correctly, it was either CBS, or ABC that jumped onto the "charge the affiliates" bandwagon and w/a few exceptions, every network has adopted the "FOX" business model. You don't get to be a FOX affiliate without the checkbook. And, if you don't pay, they just turn off those "free" digital receivers until a check arrives and clears the bank.
Now, as for the second part - Yes, FOX Affiliates (FA) charge for those commercials you're forced to watch and listen to. But, that's what any TV station, that's still on the air, has done since the 50's. The only thing different is this...what once was a revenue stream to the station(s) is now an expense. 180° turn-about in the oil' business model. Not only do you have to pay for the regular line-up of pablum, but now the networks REQUIRE payment or it's no play. Simple as that. No one, that I'm aware of, is GETTING a check from any network.
Now, it's usually a gamble for the off-network fare that each station runs...whether or not it will be a hit in the market or not. But, each show has a certain point-of-no-return or ROI (return on investment). But the affiliate has to, at least, "buy" the program and promote the heck out of it, BEFORE you even get to tune it in. Then, by the grace of GOD, maybe someone out there will fill out a Nelsen ratings book, and the show might
be a hit. Otherwise, the show will suck, and the revenue that should have been generated by the show, won't be there and the station still has to pay for it anyways. Now, THAT'S GAMBLING. Believe me, I'll never be a salesman for any place that sells advertising. I just don't have the stomach for stuff that has to be put up with. AS FOR THE NETWORK FARE...again, it's pay-to-play now. Then, you get to worry if you can charge enough to cover the "franchising fee" for the year. It's some pretty heady stuff. As I stated before, there's no longer a "free lunch" in this business anymore.
And finally, yes, you consumers do end up paying for the programming. That's life. Want a nice house? Pay the taxes. Want gas for your car? Pay the pump. That car? Pay the insurance and car payment. Yada, Yaud, yada. (Sorry Seinfeld fans...it works too well in this situation...)
Again, don't beat me up for sounding too preachy...this business isn't as simple as some folks might believe it is. There are many things that have to be maintained, replaced, updated, down-graded and/or mutilated in order to keep any business running. Only the Mafia makes money w/out doing any labor (or is that the government?). Everyone else...pay the piper or no one dances.