FCC Regulatory Fees May Be Going……Down!
May 19, 2023
InsideRadio reports that after four consecutive years of paying more in annual regulatory fees, the radio industry is in line for a rollback this year. Under a proposal drafted by the Federal Communications Commission, most stations would see their annual fee shrink by five percent – but some of the smallest stations could see a reduction of as much as 43%. The decrease comes in part as the FCC reallocates how its fulltime employee expenses are divvied up, as well as the creation of a new payment tier of radio stations that it says will result in fees that are “more equitably distributed” among all radio stations.
“We share the broadcasters’ concern that market pressures are significant and, as currently structured, we risk that our fee schedule results in those that are least able to pay regulatory fees overpaying their share of fees, to the benefit of broadcasters with a larger population base,” the FCC’s proposal says. Its solution is splitting the lowest tier – those stations with a reach of fewer than 25,000 listeners – into two.
The bottom tier would include stations that serve a population of fewer than 10,000 listeners, with the second group covering 10,000 to 25,000. Under the proposal, the remaining population tier thresholds would remain the same as in prior years.
The NAB said Wednesday it is happy with what it sees in this year’s fee proposal. “NAB commends the FCC's efforts in refining the regulatory fee process in a more fair and equitable way,” spokesman Alex Siciliano said. “This year's proposal aligns with NAB's long-standing advocacy for a balanced fee structure. NAB appreciates the FCC's willingness to address this imbalance and we look forward to working closely with the Commission during the rulemaking process,” he said in a statement.
InsideRadio also notes that the Commission will continue its pandemic-era relief options for broadcasters that were put into place in 2020. That includes allowing a broadcaster to submit a single request to have their annual fee waived, reduced or deferred for all their stations on a single form. The FCC also plans to again reduce the 25% interest rate typically charged on installment payments, and again waive the down payment normally required before granting an installment payment request. It also plans to let companies that owe the FCC money – and are therefore subject to the Commission’s red-light rule – to nevertheless be allowed to seek some relief, even though their red light status would typically prohibit such requests.
The FCC is also considering a rule change floated by the NAB that would permit regulatory fees to be paid in installments in advance of the annual due date.
The FCC is taking comments on its annual fee proposal through June 14, with reply comments due by July 29. Once a decision is made, broadcasters must pay their annual fee by Oct. 1 or else face the possibility that any pending application will not be processed. The FCC also has the authority to charge a mandatory late filing fee.