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What NAB Said About FCC Fee Changes

Broadcasters group criticizes prospective removal of radio station class system

The National Association of Broadcasters has filed comments on the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning regulatory fee reforms. It said some of the commission’s suggestions need more specifics while others should be abandoned outright.

The FCC had noted that radio licensees more than double TV licensees in number, yet the total fees collected from each category differ only slightly. In response, the NAB said it supports the idea of making fees more aligned to the number of FCC employees devoted to a particular service, but it called for more specifics and information on how previous fees have been calculated to develop a comparison.

Regarding proposed changes to the station class system, the NAB expressed opposition.

“The commission asks whether it should assess radio station fees based on market rank instead of population served, and whether it should eliminate the distinction between the types and classes of radio stations in determining fees. NAB would oppose either proposal because they would undermine the equity and fairness of the current process, which generally assesses higher fees to larger radio stations and those in larger cities than to smaller stations and those located in less populated areas,” it said.

It pointed out that each station has a different coverage pattern, signal strength and local population density, therefore a specific prospective available population number it could theoretically serve. Merely lumping stations together by market size would be inaccurate. It also noted that 4,000 radio stations were in unrated markets.

The NAB said various service criteria “serve as a proxy for the size, location, reach, and to an extent, the resources of individual radio stations, all of which are reflected in the current process for determining regulatory fees for radio licensees. As a result, fees are generated that fairly reflect an individual radio station’s characteristics. NAB fails to see the benefit of removing these elements from the equation, as doing so would only diminish the accuracy and specificity of the current fees.”

NAB also said the FCC should consider how the spectrum auction will affect regulatory fees for TV licensees remaining after auction.

The full text of its comments can be found here (PDF).