FCC Proposes Changes in TV Station Regulatory Fees

Historically, the FCC has charged VHF TV stations significantly higher fees than those assessed their UHF counterparts. I haven't seen a justification for this, but it’s likely due to the VHF analog stations having been the dominant stations in a market prior to the June 2009 digital transition. In some cases, this laid them open to renewal challenges which required more FCC resources.

After the 2009 transition, many of the dominant network-owned and network-affiliated stations wound up transmitting on UHF channels and thus subject to a much lower regulatory fee. Unlucky stations that moved to a VHF channel after formerly operating in UHF spectrum saw a huge jump in their regulatory fees. The FCC recognized the problem, but was more concerned about the impact on smaller stations transmitting on UHF channels. It would be hard to explain why TV stations transmitting on VHF were being charged more when the incentive auction would pay stations to move to those channels.

A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Order, released on Friday, June 13 may change this. In the NPRM, the FCC proposed that UHF/VHF regulatory fees be combined into a single digital television category.

Under the proposed FY2014 fees, a top-10 market VHF station that paid $86,075 last year will pay only $44,875 this year—the same as a top-10 market U. Last year, that UHF station paid $38,000. Top-10 VHF stations will pay 47.9 percent less, with comparable market UHF stations paying 18.1 percent more.

In U.S. television markets 51-100, the proposed combined VHF/UHF fee is $15,675, compared to last year's fees of $22,475 for VHFs and $13.700 for UHFs. This represents approximately a 30 percent drop for a V and a 14 percent increase for a commercial U.

Proposed FY2014 regulatory fees for LPTV, TV/FM translators, boosters and Class A TV stations would remain unchanged at $410, as would broadcast auxiliary licenses at $10. Fees for Earth stations, which includes Ku-band uplinks used for SNG, are supposed to drop from $275 to $240.

Fees for AM and FM radio stations are unchanged in all markets, but the AM stations operating in the expanded band would no longer be exempt from FCC regulatory fees.

When the FCC announces the fees for the current fiscal year, a significant portion of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking focuses on the number of full-time employees devoted to each service. This can change from year-to-year. For details on all fees and a description of how they were calculated, see the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Order (FCC 14-88).

Doug Lung

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. As vice president of Broadcast Technology for NBCUniversal Local, H. Douglas Lung leads NBC and Telemundo-owned stations’ RF and transmission affairs, including microwave, radars, satellite uplinks, and FCC technical filings. Beginning his career in 1976 at KSCI in Los Angeles, Lung has nearly 50 years of experience in broadcast television engineering. Beginning in 1985, he led the engineering department for what was to become the Telemundo network and station group, assisting in the design, construction and installation of the company’s broadcast and cable facilities. Other projects include work on the launch of Hawaii’s first UHF TV station, the rollout and testing of the ATSC mobile-handheld standard, and software development related to the incentive auction TV spectrum repack. A longtime columnist for TV Technology, Doug is also a regular contributor to IEEE Broadcast Technology. He is the recipient of the 2023 NAB Television Engineering Award. He also received a Tech Leadership Award from TV Tech publisher Future plc in 2021 and is a member of the IEEE Broadcast Technology Society and the Society of Broadcast Engineers.