With a week to go before the deadline for submission of annual regulatory fees, we urge broadcasters to get into the FCC’s fee filing system now and pay their fees. We have been told that there are sometimes glitches in the electronic payment system that can take time to resolve. With a 25% penalty on payments received after the September 24 deadline, broadcasters should not wait until the last minute to submit these fees and risk having to pay the steep penalty for a late payment should a glitch arise.
The FCC has issued numerous public notices about the payment of these annual regulatory fees that anyone paying fees should review to make sure that they know all that they need to know to make a complete and timely payment. The FCC initially issued a Public Notice announcing that the payment window is open and will be open for timely payments through 11:59 pm Eastern Daylight Time on September 24, 2021. The Media Bureau subsequently released a Media Bureau Fee Filing Guide setting out payment specifics for computing the fees due from broadcast stations. The Bureau’s online fee lookup portal for the fees that the FCC believes are due from any specific station was activated early this week (see the FCC Public Notice here). Remember, fees are based on a station’s status as of October 1, 2020, so stations that have since changed facilities pay on the facilities as they were last year – and that is what should be reflected in the FCC’s database. This week, the FCC also issued a Fact Sheet explaining who does not owe fees – including noncommercial stations and companies whose total obligations are $1000 or less.
The FCC also released a separate Payment Procedures Public Notice. Review that notice to make sure that you are following the correct procedures to make the required payments. In this time when many stations are still suffering from the economic downturn last year because of the pandemic, the FCC recognized that fee payments could imperil the broadcast services offered by some particularly hard-hit stations. Licensees that want to seek a waiver, deferral or reduction of their regulatory fees based on financial hardship from the pandemic should review yet another Public Notice setting out the procedures for such requests. These requests, which must be submitted by September 24, should include financial documentation demonstrating the hardship of a timely payment. The FCC won’t just take your word when evaluating your economic issues and hardship request – you must document that the timely payment would imperil specific services that your station provides.
With a week to go, you should be working on these filings right now. Don’t delay, as the penalty for an untimely payment is steep.