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NAB: FCC Regulatory Fees Approach ‘Unfair,’ ‘Unlawful’

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WASHINGTON—The FCC’s approach to Fiscal Year 2020 regulatory fees for broadcasters is “patently unfair and likely unlawful,” ignoring the impact COVID-19 is having on the industry, according to comments filed by the NAB.

The comments are in response to an FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would require the commission to collect $339 million in regulatory fees for the fiscal year. While that amount is the same as last year, the NAB says that the FCC proposal would see many broadcasters have to pay increased regulatory fees for the second consecutive year.

The NAB says that the FCC has failed to adequately explain the basis for these fee increases, which in turn hinders the ability of the stakeholders who pay the fees to provide meaningful feedback to the proposal.

As the country is still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NAB notes that broadcasters have been faced with physical constraints on their operations and significant economic losses, all while still providing critical emergency news and information to the public.

“Given the uncertainty on the duration of the pandemic, there is no telling when broadcast operating revenues will return to previous levels,” the NAB writes.

The organization points out that President Donald Trump has issued an executive order to regulatory agencies to address the economic effects of the pandemic and examine ways they can waive, modify and/or extend regulatory requirements that may impeded the economic recovery.

“We urge the commission to use its authority to help alleviate broadcasters’ financial burdens by—at the very least—suspending regulatory fee increases or allowing broadcasters to pay their regulatory fees in installments over a period of six to nine months,” the comments read.

In addition, the NAB says that the FCC should broaden the base of entities that are subject to regulatory fees, saying that broadcasters “unfairly subsidize” certain companies.

The full comments are available online.