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NAB Voices Opposition Against Proposed FCC Radio Rate Hikes

The National Association of Broadcasters is quickly pushing back against a proposal by the Federal Communications Commission to raise the annual regulatory fees on radio stations by an average of eight percent, according to a report in InsideRadio.

In a disclosure filing, NAB General Counsel and Executive Vice President
Legal and Regulatory Affairs Rick Kaplan said he “expressed significant concern that, for the third year in a row, the Commission has proposed a steep increase in regulatory fees for broadcasters, many of whom continued to see revenues decline in FY 2021 due to the economic impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic” in the first of what is likely to be several telephone meetings with FCC officials about the plan.

Kaplan also called the proposal “especially troubling” because it would “inexplicably require” broadcasters to cover some of the costs for the implementation of the Broadband DATA Act that requires the FCC to collect granular service availability data from broadband providers.

The NAB also lobbied against increased annual fees last year, but the FCC stood firm, saying the trade group did not take into account that fewer licensed radio stations means those that remain have a bigger burden to carry.

Earlier this month, the FCC released its proposal outlining the annual fees it seeks to collect from every industry it regulates, including radio. The Commission aims to raise $374 million to operate the agency in the fiscal year that begins Oct.1.

The average increase for radio stations would be 8 percent, which is higher than the 4-to-5 percent hikes approved last year. If adopted as planned, 2021 would be the first time every radio station would be required to pay a thousand dollars or more.

Even as the FCC is proposing to hike the fees on radio, the agency is also proposing extending the temporary measures it adopted last year to help businesses suffering financial hardships because of the pandemic. Those include allowing some payment deferrals at a discounted interest rate, and in some extreme cases, fee waivers.

The Commission is taking comments on its proposal (MD Docket No. 21-190) through June 3 with a reply comments deadline of June 18. Here is what the FCC is proposing for each class of station in 2021:

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