State Broadcasters Want FCC to Revisit Regulatory Fee Structure, Expand Payer Base

State broadcasters associations want a proceeding in light of proposed fees it said unduly burdens the industry.

State Broadcasters Want FCC to Revisit Regulatory Fee Structure, Expand Payer Base
Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

August 26, 2021 – A coalition of broadcasters want the Federal Communications Commission to revisit how it collects fees used to run the agency and refrain from implementing a proposed fee increase that would see the industry pay 16 percent of the operating costs this year.

In a letter sent to the commission on Wednesday, representatives from the state broadcasters associations said local media continues to struggle as advertisers flock to larger national and international outlets, and that a fee increase this year to compensate for new operating costs stemming from broadband-related legislation it does not benefit from does not square with the law.

The letter notes that the increase in regulatory fees comes largely from the Broadband DATA Act, legislation signed into law last year that requires the FCC to improve the accuracy of broadband maps.

The issue the broadcasters have with this is that they don’t have a connection to the purpose of the legislation and don’t benefit from better mapping, which they say is contrary to the RAY BAUM’s Act. That piece of legislation, which became law in 2018, outlines how the FCC collects its fees, and the broadcasters argue that law requires “regulatory fees be tied to the benefit delivered to the payor.”

In June, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that satellite company Telesat Canada must pay regulatory fees to the FCC despite being a foreign provider simply because Telesat benefits from the commission’s regulations. The court said that there are four categories of those who are excluded from paying regulatory fees, one of them being “non-commercial radio and TV stations.”

The state broadcasters associations noted as much to argue that they shouldn’t have to pay any increasing fees for regulations they don’t benefit from.

Request for proceeding to reevaluate regulatory fee philosophy

The organization said the RAY BAUM’s Act and the D.C. Circuit’s ruling together should instigate changes that would broaden “the universe of payors” and ultimately “reduce the impact of the fees on any one particular industry, like broadcasting, while achieving greater fairness.”

The broadcasters used the example of social media and technology companies that “consume vast amounts of the commission’s time and resources while paying no regulatory fees whatsoever” because they are not FCC licensees.

They noted that despite a proposed fee increase, the broadcasters hold only 0.07 percent of the spectrum regulated by the FCC. Since 2019, at least 122 commercial AM and FM radio stations have gone dark, “demonstrating the increasingly precarious situations many stations face,” the letter said, adding the 16 percent fee on the industry is “unsustainable.”

“It is therefore important for the commission to promptly launch a separate proceeding to commence that effort and ensure a thoughtful process in which all may participate,” the letter said.

Popular Tags