annual regulatory fees

It may be time for summer vacations, but the FCC seemingly never rests, so there are a number of important dates of which broadcasters need to take note. By August 1, EEO Annual Public File Reports are due to added to the public files of Commercial and Noncommercial Full-Power and Class A Television Stations and AM and FM Radio Stations in California, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin, if those stations are part of an Employment Unit with five or more full-time employees. TV stations in California have the added requirement that they submit an EEO Mid-Term Report with the FCC by that same date. While the FCC last year simplified EEO recruiting, it still enforces the EEO rules, as evidenced by an admonition that was issued to a TV station at the end of last week, and the fines imposed on radio stations late last year. So don’t forget these obligations (especially as the enforcement of these rules will soon be handled by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, rather than the Media Bureau, suggesting that there will be more enforcement of those rules – see our article here).

On other matters, there are numerous open FCC proceedings in which broadcasters may want to participate. Comments are due on August 6 on the FCC’s rulemaking proposal to adopt simplified rules for processing complaints of interference by FM translators to full power stations. See our articles here and here for details on that proposal.
Continue Reading August Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – EEO Filings, Comments on FM Translator Interference and Class C4 Proposal, EAS Form One and More

It’s almost August, and despite it being vacation time for many, there are still regulatory dates that must be addressed by the broadcast industry. Routine filing dates this coming month include the need for EEO Public Inspection File Reports to be included in station’s public inspection files (either the online files for all TV stations and those radio stations that have already converted, or in the paper files for those radio groups that have not yet made the switch) for stations that are part of employment units with five or more full-time employees in California, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin. Links to these reports must also be included on the home page of any stations in such employment units, whether or not the station’s complete public file is available online. For more about station’s ongoing EEO obligations see our article here. EEO Mid-Term Reports are due to be file with the FCC on August 1 by Radio Station Employment Units with 11 or more full-time employees in California and Television Employment Units with five or more full-time employees in Illinois and Wisconsin. For more on these Mid-Term reports, see our article here.

August also brings the date for Reply Comments in the Modernization of Media Regulation proceeding (see our articles here and here). Reply comments in that proceeding looking to amend or repeal broadcast regulations that no longer make sense in the modern media environment are due by August 4. Many media companies are also watching the Restoring Internet Freedom proceeding, looking at what some people refer to as the Open Internet or Net Neutrality issues, where reply comments are due August 16.
Continue Reading August Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – EEO, Translators, Media Regulation Modernization, EAS, Incentive Auction and More

September is one of those few months of the year where there are no regular FCC filing deadlines – no quarterly issues programs lists, no children’s television reports, no annual EEO public file reports, and no ownership reports or renewal deadlines.  For TV stations that recently filed a renewal, or which are about to file one, there are the pre-or post-filing notices.  But for most broadcasters, the one routine regulatory deadline in September (which has, in the past, sometimes fallen in August), is the obligation to pay annual regulatory fees.  But, so far, the FCC has not released the Order officially stating what those fees will be, or the Notice setting the filing deadlines – though we expect these notices any day (perhaps any moment).  As the fees need to be paid before the start of the FCC’s new fiscal year on October 1, expect that those fees will be due at some point before the end of September.

While there are few of these routine filing deadlines in September (though broadcasters should, of course, be preparing for the due date for many of these reports in early October), there are a number of important proceedings with September comment dates, appeal deadlines or other important milestones.  And there is the start of the Lowest Unit Rate window for the November election.  Some of the September deadlines are summarized below.
Continue Reading September Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Regulatory Fees, Lowest Unit Rates, and Comments on Multiple Ownership, Online Public File for Radio and MVPDs, Music Licensing and Class C4 FM Stations

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.


Continue Reading FCC Announces Regulatory Fees to be Paid in September – Specific Filing Dates to Be Announced Soon

Another month is upon us, along with all of the FCC regulatory obligations that accompany it. August brings a host of license renewal obligations, along with EEO public file obligations in a number of states, as well as noncommercial Biennial Ownership Report filings in several states. We also expect that the FCC will notify stations of the date for the payment of their regulatory fees (which will either be due late this month or early next). As we reported yesterday, the filing of long-form translator applications for over 1000 applicants from the 2003 FM translator window also comes at the end of the month. There are comments due in a number of FCC proceedings. We’ll talk about some of those issues below. For TV broadcasters, we also suggest that you review our article that recently ran in TV NewsCheck, updating TV broadcasters on issues of relevance to them not only this month, but providing a description of the full gamut of issues facing TV broadcasters. We prepare this update for TV NewsCheck quarterly.

Today brings the deadline for the filing of license renewal applications for radio stations in California and for TV stations in Illinois and WisconsinStations in these states, and in North and South Carolina also have EEO public inspection file reports that should be placed in their public inspection files no later than today. Noncommercial TV stations in Illinois and Wisconsin also need to file Biennial Ownership Reports today, and noncommercial radio stations in California, North Carolina, and South Carolina should also file their Biennial Ownership Reports by today.


Continue Reading August FCC Regulatory Deadlines for Broadcasters – Including Renewals; EEO; Comments on Indecency, the Online Public File and Cross-Ownership

As is the case with most months, June brings a number of FCC deadlines for broadcasters, both standard regulatory filings and comment deadlines in important regulatory proceedings. The regular filing deadlines include license renewal applications due on June 3 (as June 1 is a Saturday) for Commercial and Noncommercial Full-Power and Class A Television Stations, TV Translators, and LPTV Stations in Ohio and Michigan; and Commercial and Noncommercial AM and FM Radio Stations, FM Translators, and LPFM Stations in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada. Noncommercial stations in the states with renewals also have to file their Biennial Ownership Reports, as do noncommercial radio stations in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

Renewal pre-filing announcements must begin on June 1 for Commercial and Noncommercial Full-Power and Class A Television Stations in Illinois and Wisconsin and for Commercial and Noncommercial AM and FM Radio Stations in California. Post-filing announcements for radio stations in Texas should continue on June 1 and 16, as well as for TV stations in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee.

In addition to these regular filings, broadcasters also have many other deadlines that are coming up either in the month, or soon thereafter. Broadcasters who were successful bidders in the recent FM auction have payment deadlines on June 12, and then have a July 24 deadline for the filing of "long-form" applications on FCC Form 301 specifying the technical facilities that they plan to build (see the FCC Public Notice here). Applicants for new FM translators left over from the 2003 filing window are now in a settlement window, with deadlines for settlements between competing applicants due on July 22 (see the FCC public notice here). 


Continue Reading June FCC Obligations for Broadcasters – Renewals, EEO, FM Translator and Auction Filings, and Comments on Regulatory Fees, Indecency, and Incentive Auction Band Plan

FCC Annual Regulatory Fees are due to be submitted to the FCC by 11:59 PM on September 13, 2012, according to a series of public notices issued by the FCC.  The FCC’s Public Notice providing the instructions for broadcaster’s fees is available here. As set forth in that notice, the Commission will no longer be mailing a reminder to broadcasters about these fees, so stations need to remember their obligations on their own.  The FCC’s website, www.fccfees.com , will provide information about the fee filing process and the amounts that stations owe.  The amount of the obligations are based on the class of the station and the population within the station’s coverage area. 

Fees are computed as of October 1, 2011, the start of the FCC’s last fiscal year.  For stations that have in the last year received upgraded their facilities, or built out new construction permits for new stations, the fees are still paid based on the status of the station as of October 1, 2011.  Stations pay fees not only for their main licenses, but also for boosters, translators and auxiliary stations (e.g. STLs).  Parties who have financial hardship or other reasons that they cannot pay the fees can ask for a waiver.  Another public notice sets out the standards for a waiver showing. 


Continue Reading FCC Sets Deadline for Annual Regulatory Fees – September 13, 2012

The FCC just released its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to establish the regulatory fees to be paid by each of the entities that it regulates. Each year, before the FCC collects its annual regulatory fees from broadcasters and other entities subject to its oversight, it asks for comments on the amount of those fees.  This year, as has been the case in most of the past few years, there are few changes proposed in this Notice, thought the Commission does promise to issue additional rulemakings later this year, looking to readjust fees to take into account changes in the communications industry since these fees were first imposed almost 20 years ago.  Look, for instance, for a change to be proposed in the relative fees for UHF and VHF stations, which still reflect the analog world where VHF stations were more valuable. 

But any fundamental changes in the fees won’t be effective until 2013.  Essentially, the NPRM proposes just minor changes in fees so that the FCC can collect its 2012 fees in September.  The NPRM basically makes very small adjustments in the fees for broadcast stations, which are based on population coverage, to include numbers based on 2010 census data.  The fees proposed for broadcasters are set out below.  Comments on these proposals are due on May 31, with replies on June 7.  The exact dates on which these fees will be collected will be announced after the conclusion of this rulemaking proceeding.


Continue Reading FCC Proposes Regulatory Fees for 2012

The FCC has announced the final amount of its regulatory fees for FCC Fiscal Year 2011 – fees that will be due during a window not yet announced – but likely sometime in late August or September.  The Fees, set out below, are pretty much identical to those that were proposed in May, when the FCC sought comments on these fees.  The procedures for filing will be much the same as in the recent past, though the FCC did make a few clarifications on some issues affecting broadcasters.  These issues include the following:

  • The FCC will no longer mail notices to broadcasters about their fee obligations.  Instead, stations will need to go to the FCC website to verify the amount of the fees they owe.  Look for the site containing that information to be live in the next few weeks.
  • The FCC decided that LPTV and TV translator stations that operate both analog and digital facilities during their digital transition will pay only one fee.  As we wrote last week, that transition will end (barring reconsideration or other review of last week’s order) for stations operating on Channels 52-69 at the end of the year, and will end in 2015 for all other LPTV and TV translator stations. 
  • The FCC promised to start a new rulemaking before the end of the year to reassess the allocation of the regulatory fee burden.  Within the broadcast industry, that would mean looking at issues such as whether VHF television stations should pay more than UHF stations for their fees – when in the digital world, most think that UHF channels are actually more valuable than those on the VHF band.  But, with potentially more impact, the FCC would look at rebalancing its fees over all the different industries that it regulates. Congress gives the FCC a specific amount of fees that it must raise from all of the industries that it regulates.  The percentage that broadcasters pay has been unchanged for many years.  The FCC is going to review that allocation to assess how business in the various industries have changed to see how those allocations should be changed in the future.

The FCC also reminded broadcasters that they needed to make the payments on time to avoid late fees and interest charges.  Broadcasters pay fees based on a station’s status as of October 1, 2010.  Thus, a station that was an unbuilt CP as of October I, 2010, but has subsequently been constructed, still pays the CP fee for this year.  The same goes for stations that have received upgrades in the period after October 1 – they pay only the amount due for their status as of October 1, 2010.  However, if a station has changed ownership since October 1, the new owner is still the one liable for the fee payment.  The broadcast regulatory fees for this year are set forth below:


Continue Reading FCC Sets Regulatory Fees for Fiscal Year 2011 – Look for August or September Payment Deadline