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FCC Adopts New, Reduced Fee Schedule for Broadcasters

- Big Win After Years-Long Effort by TAB, NAB, Others

A years-long push by TAB, its state counterparts and the NAB to compel the FCC to modernize its regulatory fee structure yielded the biggest achievement yet with the adoption last week of a new fee schedule that delivers a five to six percent reduction in fees levied on local broadcasters, creates a lower fee tier for smaller market Radio stations, and adoption of additional relief measures for fee payors.

This was largely the result of a high-level reclassification of FCC employees undertaken at broadcast advocates’ urging to correctly reflect the industries those employees were serving which appropriately shifted more of the agency’s fee burden to those other industries.

Because it is unlikely that FCC employees’ work will change dramatically from year to year, most reclassifications will carry forward from year to year, resulting in more right-sized fees for broadcasters going forward, according to TAB’s FCC legal counsel, Scott Flick and Lauren Lynch Flick with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

The attorneys have been working with TAB and the other industry advocacy groups to reform the FCC’s regulatory fee-setting process since 2020 during the height of the first COVID wave when the FCC had proposed a substantial increase.

The new fee schedule for Radio stations is shown on this chart.  TV regulatory fees are done by precise population served, so they are different for every station, which is why they don’t summarize easily in chart form.

The impact on broadcasters is even more significant when considering the fact that the FCC’s new budget grew by $8 million.

Key Insights from the Flicks

“As a result of broadcasters repeatedly raising these issues in Comments, Reply Comments and ex parte meetings, this year, the FCC undertook a high level review of the work of many of its employees,” they said in a statement.

“This resulted in the FCC proposing to classify an additional 19% of its staff as direct employees of one of the four core bureaus, rather than simply assigning them as overhead for which all regulatees are responsible.  

“By reclassifying these employees, the FCC acknowledged that their work benefits a particular industry that should pay for that work, and for the most part, that industry is not broadcasting.  

“It is a circuitous way to reach the result (which is why broadcasters have criticized the methodology), but these reclassifications validate broadcasters’ complaints that they are paying for work that should be charged to payors in other industries.  

“While the State Associations and NAB also urged the FCC to look at additional employees who should be reclassified, and the industries whose fees would rise not surprisingly opposed those reclassifications, in the Report and Order that came out today, the FCC punted on making further changes this year.”

Fee Payment Due Date Unknown

The FCC’s approval of the new fee structure does not set the dates for the submission of the fees, nor does it provide all of the detailed procedures for paying the fees.  

A Public Notice is anticipated in the next few days establishing the payment window.  In the past, each Bureau has also released a filing guide for the services which they regulate.  

The Media Bureau will likely issue a guide to provide more information about the fees to be paid by broadcasters.

Questions? Contact TAB’s Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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