The FCC has finalized its regulatory fees for this year, though they have not announced the actual filing date, other than to say that the fees will be paid during a window to be announced sometime in September. In the Order announcing the new fees, in addition to setting the fees (which represent an increase for broadcasters of approximately 3.5% over past years), the FCC addressed several issues that it had raised in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the fees, about which we wrote here. The issues for broadcasters were few, and some of the most significant changes will not take place until the future.
One of the simple issues that was addressed was the difference between the fees for UHF and VHF television stations. Regulatory fees have always reflected the analog preference of VHF stations over UHF, as those stations had larger coverage and were, generally, more profitable. In the digital world, it is exactly the reverse, as UHF stations are far better at transmitting a digital signal. Yet the fees still reflect the old reality – and VHF stations, as set forth below, pay twice as much as UHF stations. The FCC finally recognized that this was not right, and has decided to set regulatory fees at the same level for both VHF and UHF stations. But, because of certain procedural requirements, the new fees will not take effect until next year. So, this year, VHF stations will again continue to pay a disproportionately high fee.
The Commission also promised to review other fees in the future. Part of the way that fees are set is based on the percentage of the FCC’s resources that are devoted to the regulatory activities associated with a particular communications industry service, as reflected by the employees in the FCC Bureau most directly in charge of regulating the service . One of the reasons for the increase in the fees for broadcasters is because the FCC decided that the fees previously associated with the International Bureau, whose services working on International treaties and clearances, benefit all different kinds of communications entities regulated by other FCC Bureaus, should be largely reallocated to those other Bureaus for purposes of counting the fees paid by the communications services regulated by those other Bureaus. At least part of the International Bureau fees were allocated to the Media Bureau which regulates broadcasters. In fact, this reallocation will increase fees to an even greater extent over time, but the FCC capped the rate of increase for fees for this year, to avoid “sticker shock” to the various services whose fees will increase.
The NAB argued that, if the fees from the International Bureau were reallocated, so too should other fees including those of the Media Bureau, as its employees often make decisions that deal with other communications services. The FCC agreed that a more thorough examination should take place of the actual duties of each Bureau, but put that reexamination off until the future.
The fees for broadcasters, to be paid at a date to be set in September, are as follows:
For radio, the fees are set based on the Class of station and the population served by that station. Those fees are set forth below:
Broadcasters should review the FCC’s order for more details as to the specific post office box to which fees should be sent (as each type of broadcaster has a specific post office box set aside for its fees), and for other details about the filing process. And look for the filing dates for the fees which should be out shortly. Don’t forget to file, as late filings bring big penalties, and can delay the processing of any applications that a broadcaster may submit to the FCC.