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U.S. Budget Proposal Raises Broadcaster and Sat User Fees

Additional Radio/TV station levies would total $4.8 billion over nine years

This article originally appeared in TV Technology.

The White House has sent its Budget for fiscal year 2015 to Congress and there are a few items in it that satellite operators and broadcasters may not be happy with.

As a follow-up, the FCC provided a convenient “Budget Brief” that covered the new budget’s impact on it and its licensees.

One of the items is a “Spectrum License User Fee” that would give the FCC express authority to use other economic mechanisms, such as fees, as a spectrum management tool. These fees would only apply to unauctioned spectrum licenses. (Most full-service TV and radio broadcasters did not obtain their spectrum through auctions.) The fees would be phased in over time “to determine the appropriate application and level for fees.” The fee collection would begin in 2015 and total $4.8 billion through 2024.

Satellite service licenses are now issued on a first-come, first-served basis. The proposed 2015 budget would give the FCC authority to assign licenses for certain satellite services that are predominantly domestic through competitive bidding, as the FCC had done before a 2005 court decision called the practice into question on technical grounds. The amount of revenue raised is small compared to the spectrum fees — $50 million from 2015–2024.

One item that shouldn’t be controversial is a $625,000 provision to increase the FCC Enforcement Bureau’s technical capability to keep pace with evolving technology.

Spectrum fees have been proposed before and rejected by Congress, so their inclusion in the budget doesn’t mean they will be assessed next year. To read about other 2015 Budget items affecting the FCC see the FCC’s 2015 Budget Brief . The complete budget is available on See The President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2015.