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FCC Rejects Modernization of Regulatory Fee Structure

- With Minor Changes, Fees Due Sept. 25

Despite efforts by TAB, NAB and state broadcast associations across the country, the FCC once again turned its back on modernizing its regulatory fee structure which unfairly saddles local Radio and TV broadcasters with costs that should rightfully be borne by other industries. After making minor changes to some payment policies, the FCC proceeded with the fee structure it proposed earlier this year and set the payment deadline for Sept. 25.

In comments filed in June, TAB argued that the FCC’s methodology for setting broadcast regulatory fees does not comply with the RAY BAUM ACT of 2018 and must be revamped to comply with that law.

“Part of that revamp must include charging regulatory fees not just to FCC licensees, but to all parties benefiting from the FCC’s operations, including technology and other companies that benefit from the FCC’s efforts to make unlicensed spectrum available while only increasing interference to broadcasters,” we said.

The comments were prepared by TAB FCC legal counsel, Scott Flick with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, and supported by state broadcast associations throughout the country.

The filing also urged the FCC to undertake multiple steps immediately, including simplifying the process for stations seeking regulatory fee waivers and deferrals, and ending its policy of prohibiting stations that already are in debt to the FCC from seeking a waiver of this year’s regulatory fees.

FCC Changes
The FCC rejected our calls to reduce or waive regulatory fees because of the economic impact of the pandemic, noting that only Congress could do so, but it did accept five measures we proposed to assist individual broadcasters on this front, including:

  • Simplifying the filing requirements for stations seeking relief with regard to regulatory fees by allowing such requests to be filed by email, and waiving its rule requiring that fee waiver requests and fee deferral requests be separately filed.
  • Also allowing requests for extended payment terms to be made by email and waiving its rules to permit such requests to be combined with fee waiver, reduction, and deferral requests in a single filing.
  • Exercising the FCC’s discretion under the Debt Collection Improvement Act to reduce the interest rate charged by the FCC installment payment plans to a “nominal” rate, and eliminating the current down payment requirement for those on an installment plan.
  • Granting flexibility in how stations can demonstrate financial hardship for seeking fee relief.
  • Waiving the FCC’s “Red Light” rule so that stations already owing money to the FCC aren’t blocked from seeking regulatory fee relief.

“Hands Tied” on Fee Amounts
The FCC in its Report and Order on regulatory fees claimed its hands are tied by statute as to the fees that it must collect each year and that it will continue calculating broadcast regulatory fees as it has in the past.

As a result, there was a small reduction in Radio fees over what was proposed because the FCC discovered that it had undercounted the number of Radio stations by two percent, meaning there are two percent more stations across which it can spread the regulatory fee burden.  But it made no fundamental change that would reduce the total fees paid by Radio and TV broadcasters.

How to Pay
See below for links to Public Notices with details about how to pay your fees and how to seek relief, all due by 11:59 p.m. on September 25.  More information and specific fact sheets for the Media Bureau payees will be posted at

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

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