New FCC Fees to End VHF-UHF Disparities

WASHINGTON—The FCC has adopted a new schedule of regulatory fees which will end the present disparity between those paid by VHF and UHF station licensees.

The announcement, revealed in Report and Order FCC 13-110 last month, notes that the changes will not take effect until 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. If the “one fee” structure had been adopted this year the cost to top- 10 market full-power stations would 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.

“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,” the FCC said. “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.

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.