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TAB Seeks Overhaul of FCC’s Annual Broadcast Regulatory Fee Methodology

TAB again is urging the FCC to modernize its methodology for setting its annual broadcast license regulatory fees to comply with the RAY BAUM’S Act of 2018.

Joint comments prepared by TAB’s FCC legal counsel, Scott Flick and Laurie Lynch Flick with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, were filed with the Commission last week in partnership with state broadcast associations representing 49 other states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

Last year, TAB, its counterparts, and the NAB, helped secure a $5.3 million reduction in FCC regulatory fees after the commission originally proposed increasing the burden on broadcasters by 15 percent. 

Congress increased the FCC’s budget for 2022 by $7.95 million, but the FCC has proposed placing the burden of almost the entire amount of that increase solely on broadcasters.  

How big is that burden?

Despite the FCC’s budget increasing only 2.13 percent over 2021, the FCC has proposed a 13 percent increase in the total regulatory fees to be paid by broadcasters for the 2022 fiscal year. 

While the commission has not provided any explanation for this proposed increase, it appears to be the result of burdening broadcasters with a portion of the FCC’s 2022 costs of implementing the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technology Availability Act (“Broadband Data Act”).  

The FCC acknowledged in 2021 that the Broadband Data Act is not connected to, and delivers no benefits to, broadcasters.

This declaration came in response to comments filed by TAB, its counterparts, and the NAB, seeking a reduction in last year’s annual regulatory fees.

The commission decided not to place the burden of Broadband Data Act costs on broadcasters last year as a result. 

In proposing its 2022 fiscal year regulatory fees, it appears that the FCC has reversed course, and would place those “unrelated” costs on the shoulders of broadcasters.  

“We are urging the FCC to, once again, exclude broadcasters from covering costs associated with the Broadband Data Act or other FCC activities that bear no relation to broadcasting, such as Universal Service Fund activities,” said TAB President Oscar Rodriguez. 

“It is time for the FCC to adopt a more precise approach in assigning the costs for personnel the FCC currently classifies as ‘overhead’ so that broadcasters do not find themselves continuing to pay a disproportionate share of the costs for FCC activities which deliver no benefit to broadcasters.”

The new Joint Comments also urge the FCC to conduct an expansive review of its costs of collecting regulatory fees, permitting it to appropriately increase the “de minimis threshold” below which stations are exempt from paying regulatory fees where the costs of collection exceed the amount to be collected from a regulated entity.

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

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