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FCC Releases Final Regulatory Fee Amounts

July 2010
FCC Eliminates Earlier Proposed Fee Reductions for Radio and Sets Hefty Increases for UHF Television Stations
Last week, just as broadcasters were finishing up with their new Biennial Ownership Report filings, the FCC released its final order setting the annual regulatory fee amounts stations must pay for Fiscal Year 2010. In so doing, the FCC erased promised reductions in annual regulatory fees for radio broadcasters and reallocated the television fee burden from VHF broadcasters to UHF broadcasters, resulting in considerable increases in the fees paid by UHF broadcasters over last year and even over the Commission’s prior proposals for FY 2010.

Each year, the FCC reports to the Office of Management and Budget the amount of money that the FCC estimates it will need to run its operations in the coming year. Congress generally accepts this estimate and sets it as the amount that the FCC is statutorily obligated to raise from its licensees through annual regulatory fees. Between 2008 and 2009, fee amounts increased by about 10%, prompting outcries from broadcasters that the fee increases have historically been too high year to year, and that they were simply intolerable in a year in which the industry was so adversely affected by the economic downturn.

Perhaps because of this, for 2010, the Commission requested, and Congress required, that it raise 1.8% less revenue than it had in 2009. Based on that reduction, in April the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing modest, across the board cuts in the amounts paid by radio licensees. Only AM construction permits were to increase–by $20. In contrast to the broad increases in television fees experienced in 2009, the FCC’s proposals were for modest increases in some, but not all, television categories. In most television categories where an increase was proposed, it only amounted to a few hundred dollars over the 2009 level. Even the three categories that were hardest hit (VHF stations in Markets 26-50, and UHF stations in Markets 1-10 and Markets 11-25) only saw increases of a few thousand dollars. Article continues — the full article can be found at FCC Releases Final Regulatory Fee Amount