This week, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking containing its proposal for the annual regulatory fees to be paid by broadcasters in September of this year.  The annual fees are paid by all entities that the FCC regulates to reimburse the government for the cost of FCC operations.  The FCC decides how much each industry pays based on the percentage of the FCC’s workforce which is dedicated to regulating that industry.  In recent years, there has been significant debate over the amount of fees paid by broadcasters, with broadcast interests arguing that the FCC’s allocation of its workforce overestimated the number of employees working on broadcast matters.  In the proposal released this week, the FCC appeared to agree, allocating to other industries the work done by certain employees who were at least partially counted against broadcasters in the past.  This resulted in a proposal for the total fees to be paid by broadcast interests to decrease from the $62.07 million paid in 2022 to $55.68 million for 2023. 

The Commission will take comments on the proposed allocations and come up with final numbers late in the summer.  In recent years, the final order setting the fees has been released right around the Labor Day weekend.  Fees are typically paid in mid to late September (because they must be paid before the new fiscal year begins on October 1).

The FCC’s Notice also proposes to add a new tier to radio fees, meant to lessen fees on the smallest of broadcasters.  Fees for all classes of radio stations are proposed to decrease from the amount paid last year (information about last year’s fees can be found in our article here).  The proposal for radio station fees in the Notice is set out in the table below:

Population ServedAM Class AAM Class BAM Class CAM Class DFM Classes A, B1 & C3FM Classes B, C, C0, C1 & C2
10,001 – 25,000$990$715$620$680$1,085$1,240
25,001 – 75,000$1,485$1,075$930$1,020$1,630$1,860
75,001 – 150,000$2,230$1,610$1,395$1,530$2,440$2,790
150,001 – 500,000$3,345$2,415$2,095$2,300$3,665$4,190
500,001 – 1,200,000$5,010$3,620$3,135$3,440$5,490$6,275
1,200,001 – 3,000,000$7,525$5,435$4,710$5,170$8,245$9,425
3,000,001 – 6,000,000$11,275$8,145$7,060$7,745$12,360$14,125

Fees for television stations will continue to be based on the population covered by the station.  A table listing all of the US TV stations and their proposed fees is contained in the Notice.  TV broadcasters should review their proposed fees to make sure that there are not any errors in the FCC’s calculations.  The Notice also sets out fees for construction permits for new stations, LPTV and TV translator stations, and FM translators, as well as for non-broadcast services. Fees are paid based on the status of the station at the beginning of the current fiscal year – October 1, 2022.  Thus, for example, an operating station that only recently completed construction and was an unbuilt construction permit on October 1 will still pay the fee for a construction permit even though it is now operating.

Comments on the proposed fees and other related issues are due June 14, 2023, with replies due by June 29.  As noted above, watch for a final decision on the fees to be paid in August or very early in September.