Fee for all?


The regulatory fees charged to licensees of the Federal Communications Commission are not generally the biggest ticket overhead items on a station’s budget, but money is money. The cash generated from the fees is used to provide almost all of the FCC’s own operating funds. It should therefore be of interest when FCC Chairman Kevin Martin opens a proceeding to determine if the FCC should adjust the contribution levels of various license types, and does not list broadcasting licenses as being among the up and coming.

“Over the last decade, the communications landscape has changed dramatically,” wrote Martin in a statement. “We have seen tremendous growth in certain sectors, including cable, wireless, and satellite services, and the development of new technologies and ways of communicating.  During this same period, other sectors, such as the wireline industry, have opened to competition, and benefited from deregulation.” He said during this time, adjustments have been made, with fees going up here and down there.

At issue is this proceeding: Assessment and Collection of Regulatory Fees for Fiscal Year 2008, MD Docket No. 08-65, RM-11312 and a related Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

The process, he said, is “zero sum.” If one service pays less, others will pay more. “Through the Further Notice, we will explore ways to ensure that all services pay their fair share of the costs of the Commission’s enforcement activities, policy and rulemaking activities, user information services, and international activities.”

RBR/TVBR observation: Gentlemen, start your lawyers, and accountants. This sounds like the perfect time to point out the flat-to-red results broadcasters have been grappling with pretty much since the dot-com bubble burst around the turn of the century. Broadcasters may well be able to wrangle some discounted fees out of this – especially since they are not included on the short list of high-flying licensee types. At the very least, broadcasters should be able to head off taking an even larger share of the regulatory fee burden.