FCC annual regulatory fees

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

The FCC is beginning to consider the amount of annual regulatory fees to be paid by broadcasters and other entities regulated by the FCC.  These fees should be due in August or September of this year, prior to the start of the government’s fiscal year on October 1.  To begin the review process, the FCC issued a notice of proposed rulemaking setting out its proposed fees for this year, as well as highlighting a few issues for public comment concerning the computation of fees in the future.  Comments on the FCC proposals are due on July 7, with reply comments a week later.

Regulatory fees are to be paid by entities regulated by the FCC in proportion to the costs of their regulation, computed by the number of FCC employees who are tasked with administering the rules for a particular service.  Congress tells the FCC how much the FCC needs to raise from fees, and the FCC divides up that burden by the number of “full time equivalents” (FTEs) who are assigned to regulating a particular service.  The FCC spends much time in its NPRM evaluating how to assign the responsibility for various employees to a particular service in order to arrive at the proper allocation of fees.  The Commission asks for comments on these proposals which, when adopted, might affect the allocation of fees to the entities regulated by the Media Bureau (like broadcasters) and by those regulated by other FCC bureaus.  The Commission also noted a few broadcast-specific proposals.
Continue Reading FCC Seeks Comments on Proposals for This Year’s Regulatory Fees

The FCC has released its order setting this year’s Regulatory Fees to be paid by broadcast stations.  While has not yet set the deadline for paying those fees, that deadline should fall sometime in August or September.  In setting this year’s fees, the Commission made some decisions about fees for broadcasters that may not make sense to some – but it promised to review the decisions in the future when determining the amounts of fees in future years.  Perhaps the most controversial issue will be the fees that it set for television stations – which retain the distinction between UHF and VHF stations, and retain the requirement that VHF stations pay significantly higher fees – even though such stations are often disadvantaged (and certainly not advantaged) in the digital world.  Fees for television stations range from $81,550 for VHF stations in the Top 10 markets (versus $32,275 in those markets for UHF stations), to $6125 for VHF stations in the smallest markets versus $3050 for UHF stations.  The many stations now operating digitally on UHF channels that had previously operated on VHF channels in analog will receive some big savings, while some stations forced to operate on VHF channels for the first time may well be in for a surprise as to the reg fees that they will be paying.

The Commission also rejected requests to decrease the amount paid by AM stations in comparison to FMs, though it promised to revisit that issue in the future.  Other proposals to base payment directly on population served by a station were also rejected.  For TV translators and LPTV stations, if an entity is operating both an analog and digital station while in the process of its digital conversion, fees will have to be paid on both stations.  Full-power television stations will have to pay on their digital operations, even if they were operating with STA facilities on October 1, 2009, the beginning of the fiscal year for which these fees are paid.  All fees are based on the facilities of a station as of that date.  Specific fees for broadcasters are set out below.

Continue Reading FCC Sets Regulatory Fees – Payment Date Not Yet Set