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Hayes Urges FCC Not to Collect Mass Media Regulatory Fees This Year

He says measure could help stations struggling to stay afloat during pandemic

Getty/ISerg

Maine-based communications attorney Richard “Rick” Hayes has shared a letter he sent to Sen. Susan Collins (R – Maine). In it, he urges Congress to request that the FCC suspend the collection of the 2020 mass media regulatory fees in order to help stations struggling from complications related to the COVID-19 pandemic

In an email to Radio World, Hayes writes, “As a communications attorney for 37 years, I have seen recessions and wars affect how radio stations operate. I’ve never witnessed anything like the almost-total business shut-down occasioned by the coronavirus. This crisis is an existential one for many broadcasters.”

Hayes hopes others in the broadcast industry will join him in contacting their representatives about this matter.

Read his letter in full below.

April 15, 2020

The Honorable Susan Collins

413 Dirksen Senate Office Building


Washington DC 20510

Dear Senator Collins,

Radio and Television stations in Maine and in all of the United States are facing extreme hardship during this virus crisis. Local radio and TV stations depend on advertising revenues in order to operate and serve their communities. With local businesses shut-down, advertising revenue has evaporated leaving many stations unable to pay their bills and retain their employees. The CARES Act provides much needed relief, especially the PPP program. Without this life-line, many stations would have signed-off the air, by now. 

I represent radio station licensees before the Federal Communications Commission with clients in most states. My clients are worried about another bill which will come due for them, in September. That bill, the annual FCC Regulatory Fee, is due to be paid in September. These fees are quite impossible for most stations to pay, given the current crisis. These fees could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for many of them. Non-payment of these fees can and have resulted in a few stations losing their licenses. 

Annual regulatory fees are mandated by Congress, pursuant to Section 9 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended. Section 9 requires the Commission to collect regulatory fees to recover the regulatory costs associated with its enforcement, policy and rulemaking, user information, and international activities.

These fees will be collected in September, 2020. Stations are struggling to keep the lights on and working hard to retain their employees. These stations, from Portland to Presque Isle  — as well as from Maine to Hawaii, need relief but that relief needs to come from Congress. An amendment to the Communications Act needs to be considered to eliminate the requirement to pay the 2020 regulatory fees. The relief would enable stations to continue to serve their communities, without interruption. 

For example, an AM station in Portland, Maine, would pay as much as $4800 while an FM station would pay $5,325.according to MM Docket 19-105, Report and Order and Notice of Further Proposed Rulemaking, August 27, 2019. According to that same FCC document, a tiny AM station in Presque Isle would pay $950! An FM station in the same town would be required to pay over $1,000! Many stations simply cannot afford to make these payments, this year.

Your help with this suggestion could save many stations from ceasing operation. 

Can we count on your support?

Sincerely,

Richard J. Hayes, Jr.

207-236-3333

rick@rjhayes.com

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