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FCC Proposes Radio Station Fee Changes for 2017

NPRM asks for comments, due June 22

Have some strong feelings about those regulatory fees collected by the Federal Communications Commission? Here’s the chance to tell the commission what you think.

The FCC is seeking comment on the $356,710,992 in regulatory fees that the commission is proposing to collect for fiscal year 2017. This is compared with the $384,012,497 the agency planned to collect in fiscal year 2016.

As part of this annual process, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking asking for comments on its proposed allocation of fees as well as comments on a few potential changes.

Changes proposed for broadcasters include a reallocation of the fees imposed on stations in top markets. Last year, the commission imposed higher fees on those radio and TV stations in the largest markets in an effort to better assess fees based on the type and class of service. This year, the commission is proposing to adjust regulatory fees for AM and FM broadcasters with revised ratios so that the difference between each tier is proportional.

See the proposed chart for FY2017 (above) as well as the chart with the finalized 2016 regulatory fees (below).

The commission is specifically seeking comment on whether the regulatory fees should be reduced further for the AM and FM broadcasters in the two lowest tiers.

“By charging higher fees to larger stations in larger markets, the FCC believed that it could offer regulatory relief through lower fees on those least able to pay — the smaller stations in smaller markets,” said David Oxenford, a partner with the firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer in a recent blog post. “The FCC now proposes to further adjust the fee burden, allocating even more to stations that serve the largest populations.”

The commission is also seeking comment on whether it should increase the de minimis threshold for regulatory fee payments. Currently, regulatees are exempt from paying regulatory fees if the sum total of all of its regulatory fee liabilities for annual regulatory fees is $500 or less for the fiscal year. The commission is seeking comment on increasing that threshold to $1,000 to improve the cost effectiveness of the commission’s collection of regulatory fees and to provide regulatory fee relief to smaller entities, particularly those that have little commission regulation or oversight.

The FCC is also seeking comments on other ways to improve the regulatory fee process, particularly when it comes to improving communications with smaller regulatees (mass emails vs. regular mail), or if the FCC should require a current email address for all regulatory fee payers.

Comments on the issue can be filed using Docket No. 17-134 by June 22 via the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System. Reply comments are due July 7.