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.

For radio, where fees are based on the class of the station and the population covered, the FCC has adjusted the differential between each of its categories of stations to make the steps somewhat more even. It has also added a new fee category for each class of station if that station serves more than 6 million people. The proposed fees are as follows:

FY 2016 RADIO STATION REGULATORY FEES (proposed)
Population

Served

AM Class A AM Class B AM Class C AM Class D FM Classes

A, B1 & C3

FM Classes

B, C, C0, C1 & C2

<=25,000 $1,100 $795 $690 $760 $1,200 $1,375
25,001 – 75,000 $1,650 $1,200 $1,025 $1,150 $1,800 $2,050
75,001 – 150,000 $2,200 $1,600 $1,375 $1,525 $2,400 $2,750
150,001 – 500,000 $3,300 $2,375 $2,075 $2,275 $3,600 $4,125
500,001 – 1,200,000 $5,500 $3,975 $3,450 $3,800 $6,000 $6,875
1,200,001 – 3,000,00 $8,250 $5,950 $5,175 $5,700 $9,000 $10,300
3,000,001 – 6,000,00 $11,000 $7,950 $6,900 $7,600 $12,000 $13,750
>6,000,000 $13,750 $9,950 $8,625 $9,500 $15,000 $17,175

TV broadcasters also face new fees. The FCC published the following comparison between the fees that they are proposing with the fees that were in place last year:

FY 2016 TELEVISION STATION REGULATORY FEES (proposed)
Digital TV (47 CFR part 73) VHF and UHF Commercial FY 2015 Fee Rates FY 2016 Proposed Fee Rates
Markets 1-10 $46,825 $60,775
Markets 11-25 $43,200 $45,750
Markets 26-50 $27,625 $30,575
Markets 51-100 $16,275 $15,225
Remaining Markets $4,850 $5,000
Construction Permits $4,850 $5,000

The FCC promised to revisit TV fees next year to determine the impact of the incentive auction. Given that there will presumably be fewer television stations after the auction is completed, the fees for remaining broadcasters may go up (unless the costs of regulation also decreases).

The FCC also set out proposed procedural rules for the fee collection. The rules include that fees must be paid electronically – no checks will be accepted. And credit card payments (in a single or multiple transactions) of more than $24,999 will be rejected. Rules for other non-broadcast services were also proposed in the FCC’s request for comment.

So comments on these fees are due this month, and watch as the FCC quickly reaches a decision on the questions that it poses. Look for final rules later this summer, with payments due likely in late August or in September.