If it’s Spring, it’s time for the FCC to propose new regulatory fees that will be payable in late Summer. And sure enough, the Commission has released its annual Notice of Proposed Rulemaking laying out a tentative fee schedule. The Commission invites comments on its proposals, but if you think you might want to throw in your two cents’ worth, you’ll have to act fast. The deadline for comments on the proposed fees is May 4, 2010; reply comments may be filed through May 11.
The good news is that, unless you’re a UHF TV licensee (or a VHF licensee in certain markets), you’re probably not going to have a problem with the proposed fees. All AM and FM license fees are proposed either to go down or to stay at last year’s levels. All VHF license fees for Markets 11-25 and Markets from 51 on down would also go down (as would the fees for all VHF CPs). No change is proposed for translators/boosters – FM or TV – or LPTVs; ditto for broadcast auxiliary licenses. UHF CPs would go up (but only by $75), as would AM CPs (by $20), while FM CP would go down by $20.
All you full service TV operators – heads up. The Commission has previously exempted digital TV operations from reg fees because the DTV transition was still underway. As we all know, the transition was completed as of June 12, 2009, so we can kiss good-bye to the digital exemption. And while reg fees will be determined by the status of your authorization as of October 1, 2009, note that a special temporary authorization for DTV operation in effect as of that date will count as a “license” for fee calculation purposes this year.
We have prepared a table reflecting the proposed 2010 reg fees here. The numbers in parentheses reflect the amount of the proposed changes from last year’s fees – and as a visual aid, we have indicated proposed fee increases in red, and proposed reductions in cool blue.
The proposed fees are just that – proposals. We won’t know the final fees until sometime this summer, although historically the final fees tend not to stray too far from the initial proposals. We also do not yet know when the fees will be due, although that tends to be in September (or possibly August). Look for an announcement sometime mid- to late Summer.
One last highlight of the NPRM. The Commission is proposing to do away with the postcard notification system by which it has, for several years, alerted broadcast licensees of their primary fees. The postcards will still go out this summer, but starting in 2011, media licensees would be on their own to determine the fees they owe. (This is part of an effort by the FCC to become “more electronic and less paper-oriented”.) If you would like to comment on this particular proposal, the Commission is going to leave the comment/reply comment period open until September 30, 2010 for that limited purpose.