As we reported here, the FCC released its proposals regarding 2015 regulatory fees last May. As August turned into September, licensees were getting anxious as to when the FCC would get around to issuing an order setting the fees and opening the “Fee Filer” online payment system. That happened today with the release of this Public Notice and this Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (note that for the reasons discussed below, these FCC website links will not function correctly until the FCC’s website resumes normal operation on September 8th).
Full payment of the 2015 regulatory fees must be received by the FCC no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on September 24, 2015. Late payment of regulatory fees will trigger a 25% penalty and “red light” status, which restricts the FCC’s processing of a late payer’s applications until payment of the regulatory fee and penalty occurs.
The Fee Filer on the FCC’s website opened today and is normally available 24/7. However, the FCC noted in today’s order that the Fee Filer would, like most other FCC filing systems, be shut down today at 6:00 p.m. Eastern time for scheduled maintenance and remain closed until 8:00 a.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, September 8.
As was the case last year, checks (including money orders and cashier’s checks) will not be accepted for regulatory fee payment, which must be made online by credit card, debit card, wire transfer or Automated Clearing House (ACH) payment. In addition, the amount that can be charged on a credit card has been reduced this year from $49,999.99 to $24,999.99.
Those who read our May post on the regulatory fee NPRM may recall that the FCC requested comment on whether the apportionment of regulatory fees between TV and radio broadcasters should be changed, noting that the amount of regulatory fees it expects to collect from radio broadcasters is about equal to the amount it expects to collect from TV broadcasters–even though commercial radio stations substantially outnumber commercial TV stations. Because the FCC generally allocates regulatory fees based upon the number of FCC employees employed in regulating a particular service, the FCC appeared to be suggesting that radio broadcasters may have to shoulder a larger share of the broadcast regulatory fee burden in the future.
In the FNPRM released today, the FCC provided additional information on the breakdown of FCC employees devoted to radio and television matters. Those numbers confirm that about twice as many Media Bureau employees work on AM and FM radio matters as work on TV matters. In light of this, the FCC requested further comment on whether to adjust radio versus television regulatory fees in coming years.
The FCC also deferred acting on a request by the Puerto Rico Broadcasters Association seeking regulatory fee relief for broadcast stations in Puerto Rico due to economic hardship. It indicated that it intends to address this matter in a separate proceeding outside the regulatory fee process. In the meantime, the FCC indicated that Puerto Rico broadcasters are free to seek individual regulatory fee waivers.