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A Win for Broadcasters: FCC Regulatory Fees Drop

On August 26, the FCC released its 2021 Regulatory Fee Order, which can be found here: https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/FCC-21-98A1.pdf. The efforts of various State Broadcast Associations, including your MAB as well as the NAB were very successful, and as a result:

  1. The proposed regulatory fees for broadcasters dropped by about 9%. As a result, the FCC’s large proposed fee increases were avoided, and in most cases, 2021 broadcaster regulatory fees will be at or below 2020 levels.
  2. The FCC has launched a proceeding to consider expanding the universe of regulatory fee payors to include new types of entities, such as “unlicensed spectrum users, especially large technology companies.” Adding such payors will reduce the need for the FCC to rely so heavily on broadcasters to fund its operations in the future.
  3. The special “pandemic relief” we obtained last year will remain in place for 2021 regulatory fees. These include:
    • Permitting stations to apply for a fee waiver, reduction, deferral and/or installment payment plan via a single email containing the appropriate showing of financial hardship sent to [email protected].
    • Waiving the FCC’s Red Light Rule such that stations that currently owe the FCC money are not prohibited from seeking the regulatory fee relief described above.
    • Reducing the interest rate charged on installment payments and eliminating the downpayment requirement.
    • Providing flexibility to stations in the manner in which they may demonstrate financial hardship.

Given the statutory framework for regulatory fees that the FCC operates under, and its refusal in prior years to make significant adjustments to its methodology, this is a very good result. It provides not only short-term relief for broadcasters, but a path forward to making bigger fixes that will hopefully reduce the economic pain regulatory fees impose on broadcasters every year.

NAB Senior Vice President of Communications Ann Marie Cumming released a statement:

“NAB greatly appreciates the FCC’s efforts to revise its original regulatory fee proposal that would have required local radio and television broadcasters to subsidize unrelated work at the Commission. The change is not only the right outcome, but critical to the many broadcasters’ ongoing service to their local communities.

“NAB and our members look forward to working with the FCC in the coming year to take a deeper look at the regulatory fee process to ensure all stakeholders that benefit from the Commission’s work are paying their fair share and that those currently subsidizing the Commission are no longer paying for work unrelated to their industries.”