FCC shoots down radio regulatory fee suggestions


The Commission accepted comments about its license fee menu, as it does every year, and received a small number of proposals suggesting ways to make radio fees more equitable to owners of small stations. It found reason to reject them all.

A one-size-fits-all reason is that Congress has final say in FCC fee collection policy. But the FCC commented further on several proposals.

Robert Bittner proposed tying fees for AM and FM stations to revenues, arguing that the stations in the biggest markets had access to many more pairs of ears than are accounted for at the top of the FCC’s population gradations. The FCC said that it understood the reasoning behind the proposal and further, noted that it was not without precedent at the Commission, being applied to Interstate Telecommunications Service Provider fees. However, since radio stations are not required to report revenues, the FCC said adoption of the proposal would put the program on the honor system, and would further impose a huge record-keeping burden.

Bittner also suggested tying fees to the number of citizens resident within the station’s signal contour, further adjusted for differences in day and night coverage at AM stations. The FCC repeated its point that this would cause another enormous record gathering and keeping burden, to the extent that it simply wasn’t feasible. Further, it would cause many licensees to pay for access to the same body of population from two to eight times, depending on how many stations a licensee owns in a single market.

Edward A. Schober, filing on behalf of Radiotechniques Engineering, suggesting charging by bandwidth consumed – FMs paying for 100 MHz, AMs for only 10 MHz. Effectively, an AM covering the same size population and an FM would pay only 10% of what the FM pays. The FCC did not reject Schober’s recommendation out of hand, but said it hadn’t the body of evidence to support the suggestion, and noted that the current table of fees was instituted with the support of the NAB and 19 state broadcaster associations. It indicated, however, that it was open to a review of the fee structure at some point.