Nexstar, Gray: Fee Hike for Satellite Stations ‘Unjustified’

WASHINGTON—There is a difference between full-power stations and satellite stations, argues Nexstar Broadcasting Inc. and Gray Television Inc. in a recent filing to the FCC. Therefore, the proposed change of satellite TV station regulatory fees to match those of full-power TV stations is unjustified and illegal, according to the broadcasters.

Since 1995, full-power stations have been charged a per-sub fee by the FCC, while associated satellite stations, which retransmit a station’s programming to extend its reach or get to difficult locations, have paid a flat fee. Nexstar and Gray wrote that this decision was based on a couple of factors: “(1) ‘Congress intended the Commission to charge license fees based on the regulatory burden they impose, yet satellite stations require much less regulatory oversight than full powered stations,’ and (2) applying full-power television station fees to satellite stations ‘would place an unfair and illogical burden on small market licensees who use satellite television stations to reach remote areas in their markets.’” All licensed satellite stations have been charged fees based on this since 1995.

As the FCC prepares to “obliterate this distinction,” in the words of Nexstar and Gray, the broadcasters argue that the FCC “does not acknowledge the substantial change that its proposal embodies and offers no substantive discussion of its reversal of this decades-long policy.” It notes that in the NPRM the change is made in just four words—“including each satellite station”—not enough to defend the policy change in their opinion, as the FCC is required to do by the Administrative Procedure Act.

In addition, Nexstar and Gray make the case that satellite stations still require little regulatory oversight, as they did when the flat fee was initiated in 1995.

The FCC proposal to eliminate satellite stations’ flat fee is in response to the RAY BAUMS Act.

“The proposed fee increase for satellite stations is a starkly sudden departure—without adequate notice or explanation—from well-established and still valid Commission policy and practice, and it will have significantly adverse impacts to the licensees of satellite stations,” the filing summarizes. “... [T]he Commission should therefore dispense with that proposal and retain a separate flat regulatory fee for television satellite stations.”

The full Nexstar-Gray TV filing can be found here.