Final 2010 fees bounce back up, up, up from FCC’s initial lowball proposals

Remember how, back in April, when the FCC announced its proposed 2010 regulatory fees, we said that, historically, the final fees tend not to stray too far from the initial proposals? Silly us. The FCC has yet again proved us wrong by issuing its final 2010 reg fee schedule that strays dramatically from its April proposals. 

How dramatically? Perhaps the worst case scenario involves UHF TV licensees in Markets 1-10, who will see their reg fees skyrocket up by $6,975 over the rates proposed in April. Their UHF brethren in other markets above 100 will fare little better, with increases ranging from $3,325 to $5,225 over April’s proposals. 

Most radio licensees will also experience increases – the sole exceptions being Class B and D AM stations, who will remain at the levels proposed in April.

A handy table of the newly-announced final reg fees may be found here. The red figures in parentheses reflect the level of increase over the April proposals. The only fee (shown in green) that is reduced from the April levels is for AM construction permits.

The Report and Order setting forth the final fees does not shed much light on why the Commission has chosen to boost the fees far beyond its original proposals. (As we noted in our post last April, those proposals generally reflected a pleasant downward trend.) The FCC does note that it is working toward combining the reg fees for VHF and UHF TV stations. Historically those two classifications have been treated separately; with the DTV transition, however, it appears that the FCC is looking to treat them as essentially similar for reg fee purposes. The significant hike for UHF stations is partly attributable to that, although the Commission observes that it is taking a gradual approach which is easing the sticker shock that UHFs might otherwise experience.

As far as radio fees go, the Commission received a couple of comments suggesting major changes in the way those fees should be calculated. The FCC declined to follow those suggestions. It did, however, acknowledge that the grid for radio fees, first adopted back in 1998, might be in line for review in coming years.

The Commission has not yet announced when the 2010 fees will be due. Look for a public notice on that sometime in August or thereabouts. The Commission will again send out to broadcasters, by snail mail, notices of their fees, but this will probably be the last year for that quaint process. The FCC would prefer to move to a more digital approach to such notifications. (And perhaps for the last time, let us remind you that the paper notices that the FCC does send out may not reflect all licenses for which a fee is required. For example, the notices do not include licenses for auxiliary facilities. Be sure to double- and triple-check with your own records in order to figure out exactly how much you’re on the hook for.)

We’ll give our readers a heads up when the deadline for reg fee payments is announced.