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FCC’s Planned Fee Hike in Crosshairs

- Push for Reductions Persists

The FCC’s recent announcement of regulatory fee hikes amidst the economic devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic is like rubbing salt in a gaping wound, according to broadcasters across Texas. But the commission itself has little latitude to provide drastic relief as its budget is set by Congress which requires the agency to fund its own operations with the fees it assesses.

As TAB’s FCC legal counsel explains, the $339 million that the FCC must collect in regulatory fees this September was adopted into law in 2019.

“When the FCC collects regulatory fees in September 2020, it is actually collecting that money in arrears and the revenue must come in during the same fiscal year as the money was spent,” said Scott Flick with the Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman law firm.

The federal government’s fiscal year starts in October.

While the commission can consider individual fee waiver requests, it cannot grant a blanket fee waiver for an entire industry without running afoul of the law.

Nonetheless, TAB and other state broadcast associations plan to argue for a reduction once the FCC issues its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to collect the fees in the next few weeks.

The metric used by the FCC to determine each industry’s share of the FCC’s regulatory fees is the portion of its workforce that handles matters related to regulation of that industry. While the employee data that goes into the FCC’s assessment of industry usage of its resources is shrouded in mystery, the question from year to year is whether the agency is dedicating more or less of its resources this year compared to last in regulating broadcasters. If less, then non-broadcast industries should arguably be paying a bigger share of the FCC’s $339 million budget.

Our success last year in securing a 10 percent reduction in Radio regulatory fees was based on correcting a mathematical error and some questionable assumptions by the commission in determining how much of its workforce works on Radio-related matters.

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

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