The FCC has performed that annual rite of spring – its announcement of proposed regulatory fees for 2012. These are the reg fees that, for the vast majority of Commission regulatees, will be due and payable by a to-be-announced date (probably sometime in August or September). As with most ritual activities, there are no real surprises here: the rates are, with very few exceptions, proposed to go up.
In general, the Commission figures that broadcast-related reg fees should get bumped up between 4-7% or thereabouts, depending on the type of facility in question and the market in which it’s located. There are some exceptions, though. For example, commercial VHF TV stations in Markets 51-100 would enjoy a nearly 9% reduction (amounting to $2,205) compared to last year’s fee, if the FCC’s proposal holds. And fees for UHF stations in Markets 11-25 would drop $1,000 (about 3%) from last year’s levels.
We’re attaching a grid providing the proposed 2012 fees along with some comparative information showing the changes from the fees actually imposed last year. (Red entries reflect 2012 fees that would go up over last year’s fees; the small handful of green entries reflect fees that would go down this year.)
As always, the Commission is giving everybody a chance to comment on the proposed fees. If you’ve got something to say about the proposals, you’ve got until May 31, 2012 to file comment with the Commission. Reply comments may be filed until June 7.
Over and above the fees themselves, this year’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) contains a couple of elements of interest.
First, as the Commission hinted last year, this year’s fee calculations are based on 2010 U.S. Census data. That’s particularly important for AM and FM stations, since their fees vary based on the population each station serves. The 2010 Census data hadn’t been fully firmed up and finalized as of last year, so the Commission opted to use 2000 data to calculate the populations served for the 2011 fees. But now the 2010 data are set, so they’re the ones the Commission has used for this year’s fees. Anybody who disagrees with this should feel free to file comments letting the FCC know.
And as was the case last year, with respect to Class A, LPTV and TV Translator stations
a fee will be assessed for each facility operating either in an analog or digital mode. In instances in which a licensee is simulcasting in both analog and digital modes, a single regulatory fee will be assessed for the analog facility and its corresponding digital component.
This approach is likely to change as “greater number of facilities convert to digital mode”. Still, for the time being – and, apparently, at least for this year – it looks like the policy of exacting only one reg fee per Class A, LPTV and TV Translator license will stay in place.
The Commission has proposed an interesting new procedural wrinkle. It’s planning on requiring that any request for a refund, waiver, fee reduction or deferment of any reg fee (or apparently, any application fee) be submitted electronically, rather than the old-fashion hard copy way. This change is part of an agency effort to improve the way it provides public information about the filing and disposition of waiver requests. The NPRM doesn’t go into any detail about the mechanics of any particular electronic filing system the Commission may have in mind. Rather, the NPRM just asks for comments on the general concept of mandatory electronic filing of waiver requests and the like.
Again, the NPRM – and the fees described in it – are still only proposals. We won’t know the final fees until sometime this summer, although experience suggests that the final fees aren’t likely to stray too far from the initial proposals.
Check back here at CommLawBlog.com for updates.