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VHF DTV Broadcasters Fees Increased in FCC Proposal

Tuesday the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 11-68) outlining proposed 2011 regulatory fees.

In the 2011 fee schedule, the FCC maintained its practice of charging full-service TV stations on VHF channels significantly more than TV stations on UHF channels. (For example, a commercial TV station on a VHF channel in the top 10 markets would pay $84,625 compared with only $34,650 for a UHF channel in the same market. Last year a top-10 market commercial VHF station paid $81,550 and the UHF station in the same market was assessed $32,275.)

The FCC did not address the disparity between UHF and VHF fees in the 2011 NPRM.

Last year, even though the issue was not raised in the 2010 NPRM the FCC received comments about it and addressed them in the Report and Order setting the 2010 fees. The FCC noted that if it kept the VHF category separate and apportioned the cost among a smaller number of VHF licensees, their fees would have significantly increased.

In 2010 a number of commenters urged the FCC to either combine all VHF and UHF full-service TV stations into one fee category or establish a three-tiered fee system for full service TV stations. The FCC rejected this approach, noting this would have significantly increased the fees paid by UHF stations.

In the end the FCC said that "we use the VHF fee amount in the proposed FY 2010 NPRM as a starting point in calculating the final FY 2010 VHF regulatory fee rate. Then, in order to calculate the VHF and UHF FY 2010 regulatory fees, we move the number of 'shifting' units (units of the stations that changed channels from VHF to UHF) and their corresponding dollar amounts from the VHF fee category by market size to the UHF fee category within the same market size."

The Commission explained that within each UHF fee categorized by market size, the projected revenue amount "is increased along with the number of units in that fee category." It continued by stating that "the resulting larger projected revenue amount and the higher number of units" was then used as the basis for calculation of UHF fee categories based on market size.

I suspect there will be more comments on the disparity in VHF and UHF regulatory fees filed in this NPRM, and that when the final Report and Order on 2011 fees is adopted the amounts may be different than those in the NPRM.

Proposed UHF TV regulatory fees are:

  • •$32,950 (DMA 11-25)
  • •$20,950 (DMA 26-50)
  • •$12,325 (DMA 51-100)
  • •$3,275 (DMA 100 and above)

Proposed fees for VHF TV stations outside of the top 10 markets are:

  • •$68,175 (DMA 11-25)
  • •$40,475 (DMA 26-50)
  • •$22,750 (DMA 51-100)
  • •$6,100 (DMA 100 and above)

When compared with fees assessed in 2010, proposed VHF fees in markets below the top 25 dropped. The proposed UHF fees are greater in all markets, possibly as a result of the shifts the FCC discussed in the 2010 Regulatory Fee Report and Order.

Other fee categories that may be of interest to broadcasters are:

  • •Broadcast auxiliaries ($10)
  • •Low power TV, Class A and, translator and booster stations ($395)
  • •Satellite earth stations with uplinking capability ($245)

Broadcast auxiliary fees are unchanged from 2010, but low-power TV, Class A, translator and booster station fees dropped by $20. Earth station (uplink) fees increased by $5 from 2010.

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.