The FCC’s order on this year’s annual regulatory fees was released by the FCC this week. The FCC rejected calls to forgive broadcast regulatory fees because of the economic fallout of the pandemic, noting that only Congress could pass such relief, as the FCC is required by law to collect fees sufficient to cover the costs of its operations. The Commission did, however, offer some terms for the payment over time of the fees by companies that are hard-hit by the economic conditions that resulted from COVID-19, and simplified the waiver process for stations that can demonstrate that they cannot pay the fees without imperiling their service to the public. The order also rejected the NAB’s request to revisit the fees for radio, though some minor downward adjustments were made in those fees based on the FCC’s finding that it had undercounted the number of radio stations that were to share in the payment of these fees.
The FCC determined that it could not waive all regulatory fees for broadcasters, or broadly excuse them from the 25% late-payment penalty, because these obligations are in the statute and cannot be waived without Congressional authorization. The FCC is required by law to collect these fees before the October 1 start of the next fiscal year in an amount sufficient to reimburse the US Treasury for the costs of operating the Commission. While the FCC felt itself powerless to totally waive the rules, it did simplify the process for individual stations to make requests for waiver of the fees if the payment of the fees would imperil their ability to serve the public or to extend the payments out over time – without the need for any upfront payment of a significant portion of the fees. The FCC noted that the Office of the Managing Director will be issuing a separate Public Notice establishing the process for asking for waiver or deferral, so watch for the notice coming soon as these request will likely need to be filed before the payment deadline, which will also be established in a subsequent public notice. But the Order does say that the requests for waiver and payment over time can be made in a single email to the FCC, and that the Managing Director’s office is to work with broadcasters to try to help them provide the necessary documentation to support the waiver or deferral of payments.
Continue Reading FCC Releases Order on Regulatory Fees – No Widespread Waivers of Fees But Some Deferred Payments Possible – Payment Dates Coming Soon