From May proposals, big market VHF’s enjoy surprising reduction in final fees, all UHF’s go up a bit, and all radio fees stay the same; Look for payment window in September
It’s official – or, rather, they’re official. The final 2012 regulatory fees have been announced by the Commission. For those of you anxious to cut to the chase, here’s a link to a convenient table setting out the new fees (and comparing (a) the fees the FCC has now adopted against (b) the fees which it proposed last May). There are only a couple of surprises here.
First, it’s good to be a VHF TV licensee in Markets 26-50, since their reg fees have dropped nearly $2,000 between the May proposals and now. And it’s really good to be a VHF licensee in one of the top ten markets, since their fees plummeted a whopping $7,350 – about 8.4% – from the May proposals. On the other hand, it stinks to be UHF licensees in the top 20 markets. They’re looking at increases over the May proposals in the range of 2%. That amounts to increases of less than $1,000, if that’s any consolation. The linked table shows the changes between proposed fees and adopted fees, with increases shown in red and decreases in green. (Interestingly, none of the radio-related fees changed from the May proposals.)
The Commission has not yet announced the dates of the window period during which reg fees can be filed this year, but it does indicate (in Paragraph 1 of its order) that it intends to “collect these regulatory fees during a September 2012 filing window”. So it looks like your beach plans for August are still intact.
As to the non-dollar aspects of this year’s reg fees, there appear to be no surprises. The Commission has decided to use 2010 Census data in determining the fees for AM and FM stations (whose fees vary based on the population each station serves). And as was the case last year, with respect to Class A, LPTV and TV Translator stations
a single fee will be assessed for each facility regardless of whether it transmits in analog or digital mode, digital mode, or simulcasting in both analog and digital modes.
Note that this approach may, and almost certainly will, change as more of these facilities convert to digital mode.
The Commission has decided that any request for a refund, waiver, fee reduction or deferment of any reg fee (or apparently, any application fee) must be submitted electronically, rather than the old-fashion hard copy way. This change is part of an agency effort to improve the way it provides public information about the filing and disposition of waiver requests.
Exactly how that will work is not at all clear. The Commission’s order provides absolutely zero description of what online filing system might be used for this purpose – instead, the FCC casually assigns the heavy lifting on this project to the Office of Managing Director (“We direct the Office of Managing Director to take the necessary steps to assist regulatees in transitioning to electronic filing.”). Plus, the order specifies no effective date, so it’s impossible to tell exactly when this new procedural tweak is intended to kick in. We’ll keep an eye out for further announcements on this and pass them along to our readers here.
One last heads up: as it has previously announced (and as was the case last year), the Commission has stopped sending out bills reflecting each station’s reg fee obligations. If you want to see what the FCC has calculated as the amount due for your main station license(s), you will go to www.fccfees.com, enter your call sign (or Facility ID Number) and hit the button (but note that that site will probably not be working until closer to the payment window). When the number comes up, you may still want to do your own calculation, as the FCC’s system has been known to make mistakes in the past.
CAUTION: Historically, the FCC’s fee calculator has NOT included fees for any auxiliary licenses that may be associated with the main license. (We’ve told you about this in the past . . . and it’s still true.) Since separate fees are due for those auxiliaries over and above the main license reg fee, it’s very important to doublecheck your records and the FCC’s records to be sure that your payment includes the necessary fees for all applicable authorizations. Since a failure to pay even a single $10 fee for a remote pickup could result in the dreaded red light status, extreme care should be taken on this front.
Again, the specific dates for this year’s reg fee window have not yet been announced. Check back here for updates.