Annual Regulatory Fee Reform

Posted on June 5th, 2013 by

The FCC has proposed regulatory fees for Fiscal Year 2013, with potential increases on the way for those regulated by the Media Bureau (that’s you, broadcasters). The FCC is trying to update its formula for how regulatory fees are computed  and allocated among the FCC’s Bureaus for collection. Under one proposal, the formula would change so that licensees falling under the International Bureau would pay less overall, and those in the Media and Wireless Bureaus. Because some of the increases might be substantial, the FCC has proposed either keeping the rates the same for one more year, or imposing the new rates but with a 7.5% cap.

Another change is being considered for television stations, but wouldn’t take effect until next year. In the past, annual regulatory fees for full-service television stations have been calculated based on two, five-tiered market segments for Ultra High Frequency (UHF) and Very High Frequency (VHF) television stations, respectively. The FCC is looking to change that by combining UHF and VHF full-service television stations into a single fivetiered fee category (by market size).

Historically, in the analog world, VHF channels (channels 1-13) were coveted for their greater prestige and larger audience, so the regulatory fees assessed on VHF stations have been higher than the regulatory fees assessed for UHF (channels 14 and above) stations in the same market area. Today, in the digital world, VHF channels are less desirable than digital UHF channels. So there may no longer be a basis on which to assess higher regulatory fees for VHF channels. Combining  VHF and UHF into one fee category would eliminate the current fee disparity between UHF and VHF television stations. If the FCC’s proposal is adopted, it would be implemented in Fiscal Year 2014.

You can comment on the proposals through the FCC’s electronic comment filing system, but must do so before June 19, 2013.