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Broadcasters Want $82,000 in Auction Fees Returned

Fourteen broadcasters turn to federal appeals court for relief

Fourteen broadcasters are asking the federal appeals court to compel the FCC to return thousands of dollars in auction fees back to broadcasters.

A decision could potentially affect all broadcasters that took part in spectrum auctions from 2000 to 2011.

Some of the groups asking for relief are Legacy Communications, Independence Media Holdings, Tri State Radio and Mattox Broadcasting.

The groups say in the petition the FCC ignored its own rules when the agency collected application fees for 11 spectrum auctions from 2000 to 2011. The group tells the court the refund request has been pending since August 2011. Action on that request has been “unreasonably delayed,” writes Fletcher Heald’s Harry Cole, Anne Goodwin Crump and Dan Kirkpatrick.

High bidders in FCC spectrum auctions don’t need to submit an additional application filing fee with their long-form applications, according to the filing, yet the agency compelled broadcasters submit the fee. The broadcasters want a total of about $82,000 returned.

A decision could potentially affect any broadcaster that participated in Auction Nos. 37, 62, 64, 68, 70, 79, 80, 81, 88, 90 and 91. Successful bids were placed on 650 construction permits during those auctions, according to the filing.

“Petitioners have requested refund of their fees, but the FCC has failed to act on their requests, even though it is clear from the commission’s own rules and actions that collection of petitioners’ fees was unlawful in the first place and that refund is therefore mandated. Under the circumstances, judicial relief is warranted,” state the attorneys for the broadcast groups.

The FCC has not responded to the filing, but it doesn’t have to unless or until the court orders the agency to respond, according to Cole, who also tells Radio World there is no deadline for any action with this kind of petition.