Effective date TBD

On the same day that it was cranking out hundreds of pages of Very Important Documents (including an NPRM on retransmission consent, a Report and Order on rural radio and related items concerning spectrum opportunities for Native Americans, updated rules governing accessibility for citizens with disabilities), the Commission also managed to slip out, with virtually no fanfare, a new schedule of application fees. It’s been more than two and a half years since the last revision to that schedule was announced. Since the Commission is required to review its fees every two years, this latest update is a tad late – but the last revision didn’t take effect until April, 2009, so if things move smoothly this time around, the process should be back on its biennial track.

It should come as no surprise to anybody that, at least on the broadcast side, almost all fees will be going up. In general, the increases are in the 3%-3.5% range – a figure tied to the Consumer Price Index. Note, however, that the fees for Ownership Reports ($60 per station), call sign changes ($95 per change), TV Translator/LPTV renewals ($60 per application) and AM remote control applications ($60 per) won’t be changing at all.

The Commission’s announcement left up in the air precisely when the new rates will kick in.  Historically, this is where the fun begins. Long-time readers may remember our “Pursestrings” series of posts, starting in September, 2008, and stretching out until mid-May, 2009. That series began with a simple announcement that new fees had been adopted and would be taking effect 90 days after notice of them was given to Congress. Easier said than done, apparently. After a number of odd twists and turns, those fees didn’t take effect until April 28, 2009, and weren’t incorporated into CDBS’s fee calculator until a couple of weeks after that. Read all about it in our archives.

This year’s notice specifies that the effective date of the rates will be 30 days after the order is published in the Federal Register. Perhaps so, but Section 158(b) of the Communications Act appears to require that the Commission notify Congress of application fee adjustments “not later than 90 days before the effective date”. Since the announcement of the new schedule is included in an Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, with the comment dates on the proposed rulemaking portion tied to Federal Register publication,  our guess is that the Commission would like to get that order into the Register sooner rather than later. But if the order is published less than 90 days before notice of the new fees is sent to Congress, . . . well, you see where this could end up. We’ll keep an eye out for developments. Check back here for updates.