“To be sure, Mr. Chairman and commissioners, this is not the time to raise fees.”
So says the leader of the New Jersey Broadcasters Association to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the other four commissioners.
Paul Rotella wrote what he called an “impassioned” letter asking that the FCC “hold off on the consideration and imposition of any regulatory fee increase at the next commission open meeting scheduled for May 13.”
He said that an increase in annual fees for broadcasters is not warranted and that “this is certainly not the appropriate time to put any further financial burdens on broadcasters.”
The proposed fee schedule calls for about $30 million in fees collected from U.S. AM and FM broadcasters, up from roughly $29 million this year, according to Radio World’s calculation of the FCC data.
Rotella said radio and TV stations have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19, with severe reductions in advertisement revenues. “Most broadcasters have sustained declines of 60–70% in ad revenues, and some have lost even more over the past two months. Indeed, some have had a vaporization of revenue altogether in the last 30 days. Even if the economy were restored tomorrow, it would take months to generate and invoice sponsor revenue, let alone receive it.”
Rotella said that fee hikes, “especially during this time of catastrophic economic upheaval, coupled with the precarious economic forecasts ahead, is simply imprudent and will likely further hobble local broadcasters’ efforts to survive in the aftermath of COVID-19.
“If these snowballing fees force stations to go dark, there’s no other local entity that could ever replace them.”
The commission is expected to consider fees for fiscal 2020 at its May meeting, a total of $339 million across industries.