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FCC Announces FY 2009 Regulatory Fees

Last Friday the FCC released a Report and Order (FCC 09-62) detailing the regulatory fees for fiscal year 2009. The fees are based on licenses held on Oct. 1, 2008, prior to the analog shutdown. The FCC said it would not collect regulatory fees on DTV stations during the transition, so this year's fees are based on a station's analog channel. Stations without an analog channel on Oct. 1, 2008 will pay no fees for that license.

The regulatory fees are still based on analog channel positions, with substantially higher fees for stations with VHF analog assignments, regardless of their DTV channel. For example a commercial station holding a VHF analog license in one of the top 10 markets must pay $77,575, while a commercial station with a UHF analog license in the same market will only have to pay $24,250.

As far as I can tell, the FCC has yet to decide how they will handle the disparity in payments between VHF and UHF stations for the 2010 payments. There is some logic to higher fees for VHF versus UHF analog channels--they do cover a larger area, and were likely to have been the first channels licensed in a market, and thus affiliated with one of the top four networks. And they also occupy the first channel positions on a TV tuner.

The FCC could maintain status quo by basing fees on stations' major channel numbers. Given the problems with indoor VHF DTV reception and the number of stations attempting to swap VHF for UHF DTV channels, should the FCC place a premium on UHF DTV channels? As VHF DTV channel problems have resulted in more calls and cost at the FCC, should VHF DTV licensees be charged more? I'll be watching to see how the FCC deals with this issue.

Low power TV, Class A TV, TV/FM translators and boosters were assessed $400 regulatory fees for FY 2009. Earth station regulatory fees are $210 per license. Broadcast auxiliary license fees remain at $10 per license. Holders of FCC construction permits for new TV stations must pay a $1.950 regulatory fee.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.