Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • On Friday, the FCC released its decision setting 2021 annual regulatory fees. In a win for broadcasters, the NAB and

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The FCC asked for public comment on a proposal to increase from 100 to 250 watts the maximum power allowed

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. 


Continue Reading FCC Proposes Annual Regulatory Fees – For Broadcasters, Fees Proposed to Increase, and FCC Proposes Future Change in UHF/VHF Fee Schedule

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.


Continue Reading FCC Announces Regulatory Fees Due for FY 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

If a broadcaster or other FCC regulatee has not paid their regulatory fees when they are due, the FCC’s computer system will show a "red light" on the company that owed the fee – and the FCC will not grant any applications filed by that company.  As it is, it can take days