Effective date: June 20, 2011 (but check back for possible updates)

According to a notice published in the Federal Register, the new schedule of application fees first announced by the Commission a couple of months ago will take effect on June 20, 2011. That’s good news for all those radio licensees in Maryland, D.C., Virginia and West Virginia, whose renewals are due by June 1; not so good news for other broadcasters, who will end up shelling out $5 more per renewal application than their radio confrères in MD/DC/VA/WV.

A list of the new fees (all of which are going up by 3%-3.5% or so) is included in the Federal Register notice linked above. Also, be on the lookout for a new Application Fee Filing Guide to be posted on the FCC’s website. Historically, the Commission provides such guides in connection with the biennial changes in fees.

Whether June 20 will really be the effective date may be open to question. The last time the Commission modified its application fee schedule, it ran into considerable complications in implementing an effective date. (The final effective date turned out to be several months after the initially-announced date.) You can read about that saga in the posts (going back to 2008-2009) linked here. The problem appeared to involve a combination of factors which may be absent this time around, so we’re hoping that things go a bit more smoothly this year.

Under Section 158 of the Communications Act, the Commission must notify Congress of new fees “not later than 90 days before the effective date”.  Since the Commission initially announced the new fee schedule on March 3, and the recently announced effective date isn’t until June 20, it would appear that that requirement may have been met . . . if the Commission did in fact notify Congress sometime before March 22 (i.e., 90 days prior to June 20). The FCC may have done so, but the most recent Federal Register notice doesn’t specifically confirm that. 

Ruh-roh. Closer perusal reveals that, to the contrary, the notice says that the Commish “will send a copy of th[e] Order in a report to be sent to Congress . . . pursuant to the Congressional Review Act.” Hmmm. Does that mean that the Commission has not yet let Congress in on the new fees, or does it just mean that the FCC has to send Congress a second report reminding them of the first report that may or may not already have been sent? (When it comes to sending reports to Congress, you really can’t send too many.)

For now, it’s probably best to assume that the new fees will take effect on June 20. If you have any applications that you’re getting ready to file, you might save a few bucks if you can get them on file by that date. But, based on what happened back in 2009, you might want to check back here for any changes in the effective date.