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.
Those alternate fee proposals for radio are here:
Click here to view the tables.
In addition to this proposed reallocation, the FCC proposes to limit the payment of lower fees paid by television “satellite” stations, typically those TV stations that serve rural areas and rebroadcast the signal of other television stations, to only those stations officially designated in the FCC records as being satellite stations. The FCC provides a list of the TV stations that they think are satellites, and asks for comments on that list. Is it accurate?
The FCC also proposes to increase the “de minimis” exception to the obligation to pay regulatory fees. Last year, the FCC said that entities that had a total obligation of less than $500 would be exempt from regulatory fee payments, as the cost of collection and processing those fees almost ate up the entire amount of the payment. This year, the FCC is proposing to up that exception so that those with an obligation less than $1000 would be exempt – meaning some very small stand-alone AM stations that don’t have translators or other licenses might not have to pay fees at all.
The FCC also asks questions about how its staff should be allocated for determining how much of the fee burden should be borne by each class of FCC-regulated entities. It also asks for general comments on how the fee-filing process can be made less burdensome, and on the general proposal for the fees applicable to all broadcasters.
The proposal also contains a table with all of the proposed fees for each class of regulated entities – so broadcasters can take a look and see what fee they should expect to pay if the FCC adopts the proposals as contained in this notice. If you have concerns, make them known to the FCC by the June 22 comment date.