The Commission has released its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) laying out its proposed 2009 regulatory fees. To no one’s great surprise, for the second year in a row all but one of the 61 categories of broadcast-related fees are proposed to go up. (The lone exception is the fee for a broadcast auxiliary license, which – also for the second year in a row – is proposed to remain at $10.) The proposed fees are listed in Appendix I to the NPRM.
And when we say “up” we mean “UP”. Reg fees for all full-service TV licenses in the Top 100 markets would increase by more than 9%, with UHF stations in the Top 10 going up by more than 14% and VHF’s in Markets 11-25 up by more than 13%.
On the radio side, Class C AM’s in all markets are looking at double digit surges mainly in the 13%-14% range (and as much as 15.4% for stations serving populations of 25,001-75,000). Class D AM’s would fare only slightly better, with increases in the 11%-12% range (except for those serving fewer than 25,000 listeners – they’d only get whacked for a 9.5% increase). All FM stations are looking at reg fees that would be 5%-9% higher than last year.
Beyond the numbers, the Commission this year is proposing to make the electronic filing of fees (through its on-line Fee Filer system) mandatory. In past years the FCC has strongly recommended e-filing, but has not absolutely required it.
Also, as the DTV transition approaches, the Commission has confirmed that it does not plan to charge full service TV stations double – i.e., for both their analog and digital operations – if they were in fact broadcasting two signals as of October 1, 2008. Rather, the Commission will charge only for the analog. Presumably none of this will be an issue next year, since the transition will have occurred by October 1, 2009, and there should be only a few exceptional situations in which full service stations may still be holding two separate authorizations.
The NPRM invites comment on the proposed fees as well as a variety of other administrative matters (such as mandatory electronic filing and future treatment of digital TV fees). The deadline for comments is June 4; for reply comments it’s June 11. As you might guess from the somewhat abbreviated comment periods, by “inviting” comments the Commission is largely just jumping through procedural hoops it’s required to jump through. Feel free to lob in your comments, but don’t be surprised or discouraged if they are not embraced in any meaningful way by the FCC.
No word yet on precisely when the fees will be due, but traditionally the deadline falls in September (or possibly August), in order to assure that the FCC has collected its fees in time for the start of the next budget year in October.