About this time each year, broadcasters and other entities regulated by the FCC prepare to find out the amount of their annual FCC regulatory fees. These fees are likely to be paid in September, before the October 1 start of the new government fiscal year. Last week, the FCC added to its list of “items on circulation” (FCC orders that have been written and are circulating among the Commissioners for a vote) an order to establish the specifics of this year’s regulatory fees, and to propose some additional changes to be considered next year. We wrote in late May about the proposal for this year’s fees that were advanced in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Among the proposals were ones to reduce the relative contribution of smaller stations to the total amount to be paid by the broadcast industry by increasing the contribution of larger stations in larger markets. Also proposed was a reduction in the amount to be paid by TV satellite stations, and increasing the exemption for “de minimis” obligations – allowing those companies with a total fee obligation of less than $1000 to avoid paying fees altogether (an increase from the $500 in previous years). We will see when the order on circulation is released whether any of these proposals will be implemented for the fees to be paid this year.
Once the FCC releases the order on circulation deciding the policy issues about the fees, there usually follows a public notice setting the actual dates for payment, and fee guides from each of the FCC’s Bureaus providing details of the payment process for each FCC-regulated service. At that point, broadcast companies will be able to determine the specific amount of the fees that they will owe for this year. Failing to pay the fees on time can lead to substantial late fees, and can put the processing of applications by a licensee on hold. So be ready – the order should be out soon and the deadline for the payment of fees is fast approaching.