Broadcasters pressure FCC on regulatory fees

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The FCC is under mounting pressure by broadcasting associations & now the NAB regarding Regulatory Fee increases announced for 2020.  Broadcasters were prepared to pay the increase costs to the commission – that is, until the pandemic struck resulting in devastating losses resulting from the disappearance of ad revenue.  Chairman Ajit Pai assured broadcasters that he could ‘feel their pain’ & offered the industry whatever help it needed to survive.  The FCC offered to streamline & fast-track “Silent STA” applications & proposed that broadcasters could operate with reduced power to save on electric costs, or consider operating a reduced schedule of air time.  However, it refused to consider the rollback or even suspension of broadcasting fees for year 2020.  The Colorado State Broadcasters Assoc. were the first of many state organizations to make this request.  But it’s been the New Jersey Broadcasters Association that has made the loudest pleas for financial relief from the FCC.  Assoc. CEO Paul Rotella told Radio World reporter Paul McLane that he wants the FCC not only to suspend any increases in broadcast fees but to permanently restructure and reduce them.  Rotella and other broadcasters have been vocal that a hike in fees for broadcasters is not warranted, especially in the days of coronavirus, & also argues that many concerns about fees that were raised last year by broadcasters have not even been addressed by the commission. He stated, “the FCC should consider an across-the-board reduction, “given the changing and increasing technological burden placed on the FCC by emerging technologies. 

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

State broadcast associations earlier had asked for changes because, they argued, the FCC had based the fee structure on defective data, and said that the process used to allocate fees among industries unfairly shifted FCC “overhead” costs to radio and TV stations.”  Today, the National Association of Broadcasters filed its own comments calling for relief and reform. The NAB asked whether the commission “will continue to bury its head in the sand and fail to recognize the considerable inequities in its approach, which puts a stranglehold on the broadcasting industry.” The NAB statement called the Commission’s fee structure “patently unfair and likely unlawful” and ripped the agency for failing to address the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on revenues or provide relief therefrom. Among the specific issues raising the NAB’s ire are how the total amount of fees being collected is the same as last year ($339 million) yet “many broadcasters will see their regulatory fees increase for the second consecutive year” with no explanation as to why. The FCC is failing to address the pandemic’s impact despite an executive order from President Trump specifically calling on agencies to do so.

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Mike Cherry

Author: Mike Cherry

retired broadcaster: on-air, MD, PD, asst PD, Prod Mgr, IT, station technician/engineer, pioneer Internet webcaster, station installation/maintenance; 12 years in commercial radio, 17 years volunteer in campus/community radio in B.C., Alberta & Wash. Amateur radio operator & "DXer" specializing in AM night-time DX, short-wave DX/listening & remote SDR DXing/listening

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