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FCC Announces Regulatory Fees for 2013

This week the FCC announced that it had adopted new schedule of regulatory fees which will end the present disparity between those paid by VHF and UHF station licensees.

The announcement was revealed in Report and Order FCC 13-110 setting FY 2013 Regulatory Fees. The changes will not take effect until the FY 2014, but should prove to be a money-saver for VHF operations.

Under the current schedule, top-10 market full-power VHF TV station will have to pay $86,075 as compared to the $38,000 assessed their UHF counterparts. As I pointed in FCC Proposes VHF Regulatory Fee Reduction, my report on the regulatory fee notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), if the “one fee” structure had been adopted this year the cost to top-10 market full-power stations have been slightly more than $43,000, based on the fees proposed in the NPRM. Since the final fees were higher than those in the NPRM, the actual amount would have been a bit higher.

In describing its decision to adopt one fee for all broadcast TV stations, I was surprised to see the FCC included channel “1” in its description of VHF channels. (I hope this doesn't mean they are secretly planning to take back the 6-meter amateur radio band to reinstate the long lost TV Channel 1.)

The Report and Order explained: “Historically, analog VHF channels (Channels 1-13) were coveted for their greater prestige and larger audience, and thus the regulatory fees assessed on VHF stations were higher than regulatory fees assessed for UHF (Channels 14 and above) stations in the same market area. After the digital conversion, it became evident that VHF channels were less desirable than digital UHF channels, and thus there may no longer be a basis in which to assess a higher regulatory fee on VHF channels.”

The document went on to explain that in 2013 the Commission had proposed—beginning in 2014--to combine VHF and UHF stations in the same markets into a single fee structure category, thus eliminating the fee disparity.

The FCC decided to adopt the schedule when fee increases were capped at 7.5 percent, which is one reason the full-power TV fees are higher this year. LPTV, FM/TV translator, Class A TV and booster fees did not increase quite as much as expected with the cap, but at the current $410 assessment are still $25 higher than last year. Low power TV, Class A and TV translators/boosters transmitting in both analog and digital will continue to pay a single fee per station.

I had expected satellite Earth station fees (which includes SNG uplinks) to drop, but the Report and Order set them at the same level as last year, $275. Broadcast auxiliary (microwave, remote pickup, TV pickup, intercity relay, etc.) fees remain unchanged at $10 per license.

One significant change coming in FY 2014 will be assessment of regulatory fees on Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) licenses, The FCC plans to create a new fee category that will include both cable television and IPTV. It will be interesting to see how that works out.