FCC annual regulatory fees

Here are some of the regulatory and legal actions of the last week—and some obligations for the week ahead—of significance to broadcasters, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The comment cycle was set in the FCC’s annual regulatory fee proceeding. On or before June 12, the Commission wants to hear from interested parties about the fees that it proposes to impose on the companies that it regulates – including broadcasters.  The FCC proposes to complete the implementation of its change to computing fees for television stations based on population served rather than on the market in which they operate, a move it began last year (see our Broadcast Law Blog article here on the FCC decision last year to initiate the change in the way TV fees are allocated).  The FCC also asks for ideas about how the Commission can extend fee relief to stations suffering COVID-19-related financial hardship.  Reply comments are due on or before June 29.  (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking)
  • FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Chris Krebs, director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, wrote to the nation’s governors asking them to, among other things, declare radio and TV broadcasters as essential to COVID-19 response efforts and to afford broadcasters all appropriate resources and access. (News Release)
  • In a good reminder to broadcasters that transactions involving the sale or transfer of control of a broadcast station must be authorized in advance by the FCC, the Media Bureau entered into a consent decree with two companies that sold an FM station and FM translator without getting approval from the Commission. The parties mistakenly believed filing license renewal applications that reflected the assignment was sufficient approval.  The consent decree includes an $8,000 penalty.  (Consent Decree).  See this article on past cases where the FCC has warned that even transactions among related companies that change the legal form of ownership of a broadcast station without changing the ultimate control need prior FCC approval.
  • The Commission granted approval to Cumulus Media, Inc. to exceed the Commission’s twenty-five percent foreign ownership threshold. The Commission will allow Cumulus to have up to 100 percent aggregate foreign investment in the company, although additional approvals will be needed if any previously unnamed foreign entity acquires 5% or more of the company or if any foreign entity desires to acquire control.  (Declaratory Ruling).  This decision shows the process that the FCC must go through to approve foreign ownership above the 25% threshold and the analysis needed to issue such approvals.  See our articles here and here about the evolving FCC policy in this area.
  • President Trump signed an executive order that seeks to, among other things, address online censorship and rollback certain protections afforded to online platforms, which include social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, but which also protect any site that hosts content created by users – which could include the Internet platforms of many broadcasters. Under federal law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, these online platforms generally enjoy legal immunity for what users post on their platforms.  The President directed the Department of Commerce to ask the FCC to open a rulemaking to review this immunity and asked the FTC to review whether platforms were adhering to their terms of use when commenting on or limiting third-party content.  Other government entities, including state attorneys general and the Department of Justice, were also asked to review online platforms.  For his part, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said “This debate is an important one. The Federal Communications Commission will carefully review any petition for rulemaking filed by the Department of Commerce.”  (Executive Order).  Watch for an article on the Broadcast Law Blog this coming week on implications of this order for broadcasters and other media companies.
  • Anyone looking to hand deliver documents to the FCC needs to learn a new address, and it is not, as you might expect, the address of the FCC’s future headquarters. Deliveries by hand must now be brought to 9050 Junction Drive, Annapolis Junction, MD 20701.  The address change is to enhance security screening and is part of winding down operations at the current 12th Street headquarters.  (Order)


Continue Reading This Week at the FCC for Broadcasters: May 23, 2020 to May 29, 2020

With the summer winding down, you can expect that come September, like everywhere else, Washington will leap back to life and the government will try to accomplish what they can before the end of the year. That will no doubt mean some regulatory actions (and potentially court actions and legislative actions) affecting broadcasters this Fall, though what they are remains to be seen. In the meantime, there is plenty to keep broadcasters busy. While September is one of those months in which there are few of the normally recurring filing deadlines (no EEO reports, renewal filings or quarterly reports need to be submitted during the month), there is one big deadline that no commercial broadcaster should forget – the filing of annual regulatory fees.

We understand that there is an order circulating at the FCC right now to set the final amount of the regulatory fees for the year. As these fees must be paid before October 1 when the government’s new fiscal year begins, we can expect that order shortly, with fees due at some point in September. As the Commission’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposed significant unexplained increases in the fees paid by radio, and a change to the methodology used to compete TV fees, moving from a DMA-based fee to one calculated based on an individual station’s predicted coverage (which had the effect of raising some fees, especially for high-powered VHF stations, while lowering others), a number of broadcasters and the NAB complained about those proposals. Watch for the FCC’s decision in the coming days to see how it addresses these complaints about the proposed fees, and to see when the fees will be due.
Continue Reading September Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Reg Fees, Children’s TV Rule Changes, EEO Comments, EAS Reports, License Renewal Obligations and More

Once upon a time, August was a quiet month in Washington, when everyone went on vacation. Sure, there are plenty of vacations that will happen this coming month, but it seems that regulatory activity no longer takes a break. For example, August 1 is the due date for the filing with the FCC of license renewals for all radio stations (including translators and LPFM stations) in North and South Carolina, and the filing of associated EEO forms for all full power radio stations in those states. With the renewal filing comes the obligation that these stations start airing, on August 1 and August 16, their post-filing announcements informing the public about the submission of the license renewal applications. Radio stations in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia, who filed their renewals on or before June 2, also need to keep running their post-filing announcements on these same dates. Radio stations in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, who are in the next license renewal group with their renewal applications to be filed by October 1, need to start broadcasting their pre-filing announcements this month, also to run on the 1st and 16th of the month. See our post here on pre-filing announcements.

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 that are part of an employment unit with five or more full-time employees must place their annual EEO public inspection file reports in their online public file. Links to those reports should also be placed on the home pages of these station’s websites, if they have a website. The effectiveness of these EEO public file reports, and the EEO programs of which they are a part, are being reviewed by the FCC in a proceeding started by a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking about which we wrote here. Comments on this notice asking for suggestions about how to make the EEO rules more effective are due August 21, with reply comments due by September 5.
Continue Reading August Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – License Renewals, EEO, Music Consent Decree Comments, EAS Test, LPFM NPRM and More

Just when you thought that it might be safe to stop watching your email and prepare to enjoy the long weekend, the FCC comes along and reminds you that there is work ahead in September. As we warned in our summary of the regulatory dates for broadcasters in September, the FCC announced the deadline for filing annual regulatory fees – they will be due by 11:59 pm ET on September 25, 2018.  A copy of the FCC order announcing the amounts of the new fees is available here.  The filing date is available on the FCC’s website.  Fee information is provided in Appendix C of the decision, which begins on Page 18 of order.  In the past, the Media Bureau has followed up with a Public Notice and Filing Guide specifically addressing fees to be paid by broadcasters.  Expect to see that in the next few days.

The Order also announces in Paragraph 14 of the decision that the method calculating TV regulatory fees will be changing beginning next year. It will be moving to a system for setting fees more like that used in radio by assessing fees for full-power broadcast TV stations based on the population covered by the station’s contour, instead of by the station’s DMA.  Beginning in 2019, the FCC plans to adopt a fee based on an average of the current DMA methodology and the population covered by a full-power broadcast TV station’s contour.  Thereafter, in 2020, the FCC will assess regulatory fees for full-power broadcast TV stations based solely on the population covered by the station’s contour. But for this year, the FCC detailed the procedures for payment that are much the same as last year.
Continue Reading Annual Regulatory Fees Due September 25 – Expect Changes in TV Fees Starting Next Year

Each year, the FCC is required by Congress to collect regulatory fees to cover the costs of its operations. All entities regulated by the FCC contribute to the amount necessary to cover the FCC’s costs – fees being allocated by the proportion of the total number of FCC employees needed to regulate a particular service. Before requiring the payment of the fees (which is usually done in September, just before the October 1 start of a new fiscal year for the government), the FCC must ask for comments on its proposed allocation of the fees among all those that it regulates. That notice (here), asking for comments on a few proposed changes, including a few changes for broadcasters, was released yesterday. Comments are due June 22 and replies on July 7.

The changes proposed for broadcasters include a reallocation of the fees imposed on stations in top markets. Last year, the FCC imposed, for both radio and TV stations in the biggest markets, higher fees through a new category of fees for stations in the very largest markets. By charging higher fees to larger stations in larger markets, the FCC believed that it could offer regulatory relief through lower fees on those least able to pay – the smaller stations in smaller markets. The FCC now proposes to further adjust the fee burden, allocating even more to stations that serve the largest populations. In yesterday’s order, the FCC offers two tables of potential fees for radio stations. Those tables are set out below. In the first, the FCC sets out proposed fees with this new allocation of the regulatory fee burden. In the second, they allocate the fees due from radio this year, using the same proportions as used last year. They ask for comments as to which better serves the public interest.
Continue Reading FCC Proposes Regulatory Fees to Be Paid Later This Year – Questions about Allocation of Radio Fees, TV Satellite Stations, and Small Entity Exceptions

Right as everyone was set to enjoy the last glimmer of summer over the long weekend, the FCC issued its Report and Order on the regulatory fees for 2016.  The FCC adopted all the fees for broadcast stations as proposed in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (about which we wrote about here) with some

FCC regulatory fees come around each year, and it seems like they always go up.  This year is no different, as the FCC has asked for comments on its proposed fees to be paid later this year (probably in September), and the proposed fees go up significantly for broadcasters.  The fees are meant to recoup the costs of the FCC’s regulation of the industries that it oversees.  Minimal changes are proposed due to the FCC’s refining of the roles that are played by some of its employees in regulating different types of communications services.  But this year, as the FCC’s lease for its headquarters building is expiring, its operational costs have to include not just the normal expenses of the FCC’s operations, but also the added expense of the probable relocation of the agency.  This one-time expense results in a major increase in the fees being charged.  While the increased fees are a one-time expense, there are certain to be complaints from broadcasters when they see the size of the increase in their fees to be paid this year.

Each year, the FCC goes through a familiar process – asking for comments on an essentially expedited basis so that the fees can be adopted and collected before the end of the government’s fiscal year – October 1.  This year is no different, and the week before last, the FCC asked for comments on the fees to be collected this year – with comments on the proposals due on June 20 and replies due on July 5.  Let’s look at some of the proposed changes.
Continue Reading FCC Regulatory Fees for Broadcasters Proposed to Increase Significantly to Cover Cost of FCC Headquarters Move

November is another of those months with no regular filing obligations – no EEO public file and Mid-Term reports, no noncommercial ownership reports, and no quarterly issues programs lists or children’s television reports. EEO public file reports and noncommercial station ownership reports, being tied to renewal dates, will be back in December. See our Broadcaster’s Calendar, here, for information about the states where stations have such obligations. For all commercial radio and TV stations, November also means that they should be completing their Biennial Ownership Reports, which are due on December 2 (extended from the November 1 due date by FCC action noted, see our article here). Those reports submit a snapshot of broadcast station ownership as of October 1, so they can be filed at any time in November.

The end of November also brings the effective date of the requirement that TV stations convert the text of their emergency alerts run in entertainment programs (like weather alerts) into speech, with that audio to be broadcast on the station’s SAP channel. See our articles here and here on that requirement.
Continue Reading November Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Incentive Auction and Biennial Ownership Report Preparation, Reg Fee Comments, Music Issues, Text to Speech Emergency Information and More

Time flies, and more regulatory requirements and comment deadlines in regulatory proceedings are upon us in the month of August.  The regular regulatory deadlines include license renewal for TV and LPTV stations in California, and EEO Public Inspection File yearly reports for stations in California, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin.  Noncommercial TV stations in California and North and South Carolina all have ownership reports on Form 323E due on the August 1, and noncommercial radio stations in Wisconsin and Illinois have ownership report obligations too.  We can also expect that the deadline for submission of Annual Regulatory Fees will be set this month but, as we have not yet heard about that date, the deadline for the fees to be paid may not be until sometime in September.

In addition to the regular filings, there are numerous proceedings in which various government agencies will be receiving comments in proceedings that could impact broadcasters.  Next Wednesday, August 6, the FCC will be taking comments on it Quadrennial Review of the multiple ownership rules. The issues to be considered include the TV ownership rules (including the question of how to deal with Shared Services Agreements) about which we wrote yesterday.  Also to be considered in the proceeding are questions about the radio ownership rules, and the cross-interest rules – including whether to change the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules.  But the FCC is not the only one who will be receiving comments on issues that can affect broadcasters.
Continue Reading August Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Renewals and EEO, and Comments on Multiple Ownership, Music Rights, New Class of FM, and Much More