The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has formally adopted the amounts and due date for its annual regulatory fees for fiscal year 2009. This year, the fees must be paid to the FCC by Sept. 22, 2009. By that date, FCC licensees and permitees, including radio and television broadcasters, must remit the regulatory fees required for the authorizations they hold or face additional penalties and the possibility of delays in processing of pending applications. Payments not made by 11:59 p.m. EDT on Sept. 22 will incur a 25 percent late fee.

As noted in the letter notifications now being mailed to licensees by the FCC, this year licensees are required to initiate the regulatory fee process online via the FCC’s Fee Filer Web site. To access the Fee Filer system, licensees must have a valid FCC Registration Number (FRN) and password. Although the FCC letter notifications appear to require payment electronically online via the Fee Filer system, it is still possible to submit payment by check, money order, or wire transfer, as well as online by credit card or debit card. To pay by check, money order, or wire transfer, licensees must enter the electronic Fee Filer system and create a Form 159-E voucher generated by the Fee Filer system. That Form 159-E voucher must then accompany the submission of payment by check, money order, or wire transfer, which must be sent to the FCC’s receiving bank in St. Louis, Mo.

In its Order released July 31, 2009, the FCC established the fees that broadcasters and other licensees must pay this year. For AM stations, the fees range from $500 to $8,100, depending on the class of station and the population served. For FM stations, the rates range from $650 to $10,850. UHF television stations will owe between $1,950 to $24,250, while VHF stations will owe between $5,950 and $77,575. Satellite television stations, which simply rebroadcast the signals of another station, will owe $1,275. Low Power TV, Class A TV, TV or FM Translators, and Boosters will owe $400 per station. Broadcast auxiliary stations require a fee of $10 per authorization.

Although the regulatory fee covers the fiscal year Oct. 1, 2008, to Sept. 30, 2009, the current licensee of a broadcast station (as of the Sept. 22 due date) is responsible for payment of the annual regulatory fee. Furthermore, fees are based on the status of the station as of Oct. 1, 2008. So stations that have upgraded and received a license for new facilities since Oct. 1, 2008, would pay for the facility as it was licensed on Oct. 1, 2008. Similarly, new stations that were constructed and licensed after Oct. 1, 2008, would pay only for the construction permit that was in place as of Oct. 1, 2008. And stations that obtained initial permits after Oct. 1, 2008, can avoid payment of the regulatory fee until next year.

As of this writing (and the mailing of the FCC’s notifications), the FCC has not yet fully updated its Web page to provide details about the annual regulatory fees. However, in the near future, the FCC’s Web site should include instructions for submitting the regulatory fees and further information. Similarly, the electronic Fee Filer system does not yet contain the 2009 fees, despite the fact that letters have been sent to stations notifying them that payment is due. The FCC also has a look-up database that allows licensees to confirm the amount owed for their stations, and that site has been updated with the 2009 information. Finally, for those needing more detail, the Commission's full Order containing the fees for all types of authorizations is available on the FCC's Web site.

The FCC aggressively enforces the regulatory fee requirement. A payment that is even one day late will automatically incur the 25 percent penalty. And if the fees and penalties are not paid after receipt of a late notice from the FCC, no applications for the licensee will be accepted or processed until the fees and penalties have been paid in full. That requirement has delayed the processing of many applications in the last few years.

Although the FCC is in the process of mailing regulatory fee notices to licensees, in the past not every station or licensee has received a notice, and not every notice has been accurate. The FCC places the obligation on the licensee to ensure that addresses in the Commission's database are accurate and that the fees are timely paid. If the mailing address is not accurate, or if the notice is not received for any reason, the FCC will not accept that as an excuse for late payment. In addition, the FCC’s notices do not contain fee assessments for any broadcast auxiliary stations, which licensees must identify and include themselves. The bottom line is that licensees are responsible for paying their annual regulatory fees, regardless of whether or not any notice is received from the FCC.

Accordingly, licensees should submit all fees due on time and make certain payments are accurate. Be sure to keep a copy of all correspondence, electronic confirmations, and proof of payment when submitting the annual regulatory fees in order to avoid later problems. Please contact any of the attorneys in our Broadcast practice group for assistance in filing your station's FCC annual regulatory fees.