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Potential Silver Lining for Small Market Radio Licensees in Table of 2017 Annual Regulatory Fees

For the vast majority of licensees reading last week’s Bulletin story on the FCC’s annual regulatory fees, there wasn’t any cause for joy.

The fees either stayed close to the 2016 rate or increased slightly.

But certain small market radio broadcasters, however, have looked very closely at the details concerning their annual regulatory fees and found a silver lining in the regulatory fee cloud.

If an owner/licensee has just a single AM or FM station in a small town, it could really pay off to look more carefully at this year’s regulatory fees.

A longtime TAB member radio station did so and saved themselves nearly $1,000 – not small change towards the bottom line of a small market radio station.

The reason why it may be worth taking a closer look if you own a single station in a small market?

“For many years, the FCC has had a de minimis threshold for paying regulatory fees, and if you fell below that threshold, you were exempt from paying the fees on the theory that it costs the FCC more to collect them than the amount of the fees themselves,” said Scott Flick, a partner with TAB’s FCC legal counsel Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. 

“That carveout wasn’t consequential when the de minimis threshold was $10, or even when it was increased to $500 in 2014, but now that the FCC has increased the threshold to $1000, the exemption is suddenly relevant to many small market radio licensees,” said Flick.  

“The key, however, is to ensure that your TOTAL regulatory fees due are $1000 or less.  If so, you are exempt for 2017 and don’t have to pay them.”

The table of radio station regulatory fees on page 34 of the FCC’s order would seem to limit potential beneficiaries to just those with just a single AM Class A, B, C or D station in a limited number of smaller population markets, or a single FM Class A, B1 or C3 station serving a population of 25,000 or less.    

“It’s important to consider all regulatory fees that are owed, as the FCC will add them together in determining if they exceed $1000 and therefore disqualify you from the exemption,” Flick said.

Pillsbury’s Lauren Lynch Flick has written a more extensive article about this year’s FCC annual regulatory fees which you can read it here.      

As a reminder, payment of the FCC’s annual regulatory fees must be made by 10:59 pm CT on Sept. 26.

There is a stiff penalty of 25 percent if the fees are not paid on time.

The FCC does not accept checks or money orders.

Payment may only be made by credit card or electronic transfer of funds.

Stations can access the FCC’s online Fee Filer system here using the station’s FCC Registration Number (FRN) and password or the station’s CORES username and password.

The system creates an FCC Form 159-E which is needed in the payment process.

If a station is paying by wire transfer, staff will have to fax in the 159-E.

Questions?  Contact TAB's Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.

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