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NAB to FCC: Proposed Regulatory Fee Process Unfair to Broadcasters

Calls for a change in the methodology so broadcasters aren’t paying twice to cover services

National Association of BroadcastersThe FCC’s current proposal on application fees would force many TV and radio broadcasters to essentially pay twice for FCC services while others reap the benefits of these services without paying their fair share, the NAB argued in recent comments.

The FCC has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that looks to amend the scheduling of application fees. In the NPRM, the FCC proposes to increase several application fees and add new fee categories for TV and radio broadcasters based on the estimated direct labor costs to the FCC for providing these services, citing the RAY BAUM’s Act requirement of the commission recovering its costs to process applications, per NAB.

[Read: Radio Stations Get Little Relief on FCC Fees]

The commission says that the NPRM will take a “careful approach” to calculating the costs for those paying application fees that already have to pay regulatory fees so as to try and avoid doubling the costs of these services. However, the NAB argues that the proposed approach is the same whether a group pays regulatory fees, like broadcasters, or not, like big tech companies, giving the latter “a significant discount relative to costs.”

This is a continuation of the FCC’s refusal to acknowledge flaws in the regulatory fee process, according to NAB. In earlier comments regarding setting regulatory fees for FY2020, NAB and other broadcasters said the commission should account for broadcasters’ payments of application fees so as to avoid being charged twice. NAB also argued that the RAY BAUM’s Act gave the FCC the ability to expand the base of contributors to include technology companies that benefit from the FCC’s resources, including some of the largest companies in the world, with the NAB calling them “free-riders.” The FCC ignored these requests.

“As a result, broadcasters and other licensees not only pay twice for the commission’s costs of processing their own applications, but also bear the substantial costs of their competition’s fee-free participation in rulemaking and other proceedings,” NAB said in its most recent comments.

In addition to being unjust, the NAB says that this ultimately restricts broadcasters’ ability to provide free local broadcast services to the public.

The NAB therefore is calling for the FCC to ensure that its collection of regulatory fees is fair and accurately reflects the work the commission performs. However, until that time, the FCC must minimize the application fee increases in the NPRM by ensuring that only tasks involved in the review of unopposed applications are included and by excluding all levels of supervisory review. NAB also says that the commission should refrain from imposing any new application fees on broadcasters.

“The commission must take steps now to overhaul its fee collection methodologies to ensure that broadcasters are not paying twice for the same services and that the costs of the commission are recovered fairly from all of the commission’s work,” NAB concluded.

NAB’s full comments are available online.