The license renewal cycle, about which we have been warning broadcasters for at least the last year (see, for instance, our posts here, here and here), is now upon us. June 3 is the filing deadline for license renewals for radio stations in Maryland, DC, Virginia and West Virginia. Radio stations (including FM translators and LPFMs) licensed to any community in any of those states should be filing their renewal applications in the FCC’s Licensing and Management System (LMS) by Monday’s deadline. The new FCC forms, as we wrote here, have been available since early May, so the renewal and the accompanying EEO program report should either be on file or ready to be filed in LMS by the June 3 filing deadline. These stations should also be running their postfiling license renewal announcements on the 1st and 16th of June, July and August. Radio stations in the next renewal group, in North and South Carolina, should begin their license renewal pre-filing announcements on June 1st and 16th as well, informing the public about the upcoming filing of their renewals due on August 1. See this article on pre-filing announcements for more information.

In addition, broadcasters in Arizona, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia that are part of an Employment Unit with 5 or more full-time employees should also be preparing to add to their online public inspection file their Annual EEO Public File Report. This report is due to be added to their online public files by June 1. A link to this report should also be placed on the station’s website, if it has a website.
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The FCC late yesterday released an Order setting the amount of FY2017 Annual Regulatory fees, along with a public notice setting September 26 as the deadline for those fees. Reg fees may be paid now through September 26. If not paid by 11:59 PM Eastern Time on that date, penalties of 25% will be assessed. In addition, applications by any licensee that has not paid its fees may be held by the Commission without action until the fees are paid, and can even end up resulting in a license cancellation in cases where the failure is a long-term unresolved issue.

The public notice also makes clear that fees can only be paid by electronic transfer of funds. Checks and money orders will not be accepted. Only payments by credit cards or electronic transfer of funds will be allowed. Credit cards can only be used for payments up to $24,999.99 by any entity. Only commercial stations need to pay these fees. A fact sheet for Media Services is available here and contains more details on the fees and procedures for payments by broadcasters. But the amounts of the fees for various classes of broadcasters were set by the FCC’s Order also released yesterday.
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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.
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Tomorrow, September 27, is the deadline for commercial broadcasters to submit their annual regulatory fees. We wrote about those fees and this deadline here and here. Don’t forget to get them in by the deadline, as the failure to file on time will result in processing holds on any subsequent application that your

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

Paying regulatory fees is a part of the yearly calendar for broadcasters and other entities that do business before the FCC. These fees are usually due in August or September, to be paid before the start of the FCC’s fiscal year on October 1. And each year, about this time, the FCC puts out a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), asking about its system for collecting royalties and what changes should be made before fee collection begins in a few months. That order came out yesterday. It resolves some issues left over from last year (deciding, for instance, to assess fees for Direct Broadcast Satellite television providers), and asks many questions – including some about broadcasters. For broadcasters, questions include whether the FCC should adjust the relative percentages of its collections from radio and TV (a question that could pit broadcasters against each other) and whether changes should be made in allocation of fees within a service, adjusting the rates currently paid by different classes of radio and TV stations. The FCC also asks whether it should adopt rules that allow stations in economically depressed areas to get relief from regulatory fees. The fees proposed for broadcasters for this year are set out at the end of this article. Comments on the FCC proposals are due on June 22, and replies by July 6.

Regulatory fees (or “reg fees” to most folks in the communications world) are assessed to recapture from those being regulated the costs of that regulation. To figure out what each regulated commercial entity must pay, the FCC has to try to allocate its budget among the various services that it regulates, based on how many of its employees spend their time regulating a particular industry (based on Full Time Employees – or “FTEs” – an FTE being a person working full-time at the FCC, or, for instance, two half-time employees who together count as a single FTE). So the FCC each year has to go through a complex analysis of the work that it does, and try to allocate the time spent by each of its employees on particular regulated services. As these NPRMs on reg fees make clear, this can be a very difficult process, as there will obviously be some employees who spend time on projects that cut across service lines – e.g. those in the International Bureau who negotiate with foreign governments may benefit broadcasters in some negotiations, and wireline or wireless companies in others. Or the Enforcement Bureau, the Office of the General Counsel and the Commissioner’s staffs may handle a diversity of matters covering all sorts of services. The allocations that are arrived at can be interesting and debatable – and have little to do with the economics of the industries involved or their revenue base.
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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.


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