The FCC has just issued a Public Notice announcing that all Regulatory Fees will be due on or before September 20. The FCC Website on the fees, where broadcasters can look up the fees owned for each of their stations, is now live. That page gives the September 20 deadline. The main fee webpage can be
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.
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 Wisconsin. Stations 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.
While I was away for the last few weeks, there have been a number of actions important to broadcasters and other media companies that we’ll be covering in the next few days. For broadcasters, one annual notice that recently was released by the FCC is the proposal for this year’s annual regulatory fees which will be payable in August or September to reimburse the government for the cost of the FCC’s regulation of the industry. Each year, prior to implementing the new fees, the FCC asks for comments on the fees to be paid by licensees – teeing up specific issues where procedures or allocations of fees for public comment before such changes are implemented. This year is no exception. What is slightly different is that, instead of simply making its proposal for the fees to be paid by broadcasters, the FCC has instead proposed two different sets of rates, based on different ways of computing the costs of the regulation of broadcasters.
Regulatory fees are based on the FCC’s costs of regulating its licensees and other companies subject to FCC jurisdiction. The allocation is based on the number of FCC employees who work on matters relating to that particular class of service. In the past, the FCC has had five categories of licensees – including one for broadcasters who are regulated by the Media Bureau. The FCC has proposed to reduce that number to four, reasoning that the work done by the International Bureau ("IB") benefits many different types of regulated entities, not just those satellite licensees directly regulated by that Bureau (e.g. the IB is responsible for actions including treaty negotiations and cross-border issues involving all kinds of licensees, including broadcasters). By eliminating the separate allocation for the IB, and reallocating their employees to other bureaus for fee purposes, the FCC suggests that a fairer allocation of fees will result. Whether or not the FCC makes the proposed reallocation will most likely result in one of the possible fee schedules set forth below.
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).
In the last few weeks, the FCC has fined a number of broadcast stations for failing to keep up with their EAS obligations. In one case, a low power FM operator was fined $1750 for not having any EAS receiver installed at its station – and not knowing that it was required. LPFM stations must…
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.
The FCC has released its Report and Order showing the annual regulatory fees due for the 2012 fiscal year. Although the due date has not yet been announced, it will likely be in September. The fees are intended to recover the Commission’s cost of operations, reported to be nearly $340 million.
Fees must be paid by all commercial FCC licensees and permittees as of October 1, 2011 (the first day of the 2012 fiscal year). In the event of an assignment or transfer of control after that date, fees are to be paid by the current permittees and licensees as of the payment due date in September. Noncommercial stations and all nonprofit entities are exempt from paying regulatory fees.
Although a summary of fees is shown below, each licensee or permittee will have to check the FCC website to determine the exact amount of fees owed, since the FCC will not be mailing out any notices of fees due. Fees paid even one day late will be subject to a 25% penalty plus administrative processing charges, so timely payment is critical. Unlike the IRS which uses the mailing date to determine timeliness, the FCC requires regulatory fees to be received by the due date to avoid late payment penalties. Licensees or permittees that fail to pay their regulatory fees in full will not be able to get FCC action on any subsequently filed applications pursuant to the Commission’s "red light" policy until all fees and penalties are paid.
Licensees and permittees will be able to pay by wire, credit card, check, money order or debit card, although all payers will need a an FCC Registration Number (FRN) and completed "Fee Filer Form" 159-E prior to filing.
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.
All commercial broadcasters (AM/FM/TV and even LPTV) have to file their Biennial Ownership Reports on December 1, beginning a very busy month in the broadcaster’s regulatory world. December 1 is also the deadline for noncommercial ownership reports to be filed by noncommercial radio stations in Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, and noncommercial television stations in Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota (see our Advisory here). Annual EEO Public File reports are also due to be in station files for stations in all of the states where noncommercial stations have ownership filings (see our Advisory on the EEO Public File Report here). License renewals for radio broadcasters in Georgia and Alabama are also due on that date (see our License Renewal advisory here) , as are the Commission’s cut of the ancillary and supplementary revenues made by digital television broadcasters (our summary here). And all full-power broadcasters need to file their reports on the results of the recent Nationwide EAS Test by December 27 (see our post here).
December also brings a Commission meeting, at which the CALM Act rules will be adopted according to the tentative agenda for the December 12 meeting. The CALM Act is intended to eliminate loud commercials. These rules are required by statute to be adopted in December (see our summary of the proposed rules here). Comments on a number of other FCC proposals in rulemaking proceedings are also due. The FCC just announced that comments in the proceeding to determine if FM digital operations using the IBOC technology (so-called HD Radio) can operate with different power levels on each side of the main channel are due by December 19 (see our summary of this proceeding here). Comments on the controversial proposal for the online public inspection file for television stations are due on December 22.