Paul Rotella, the outgoing and affable President/CEO of the New Jersey Broadcasters Association, read with “great interest and grave concern” that the FCC is “still” considering an increase in regulatory fees for broadcasters.
Indeed, such a consideration is up for debate at the Commission’s May Open Meeting.
On Monday (4/27), Rotella wrote to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to make his case against much of the proposals in MD Docket No. 19-105.
This story would usually be locked. Subscribe today and save.
While Rotella says he appreciates the support broadcasters have received from the Commission over the years, he’s written to Pai “to respectfully request that you suspend any consideration of raising Regulatory Fees for radio and television during this particularly troublesome time and postpone the rulemaking process on this issue until our nation’s societal way of life and economy have been fully restored.”
Broadcasters have been hard hit by COVID-19. According to Rotella, “Most broadcasters have sustained declines of 60%-70% in ad revenues and some have lost even more over the past two months. Indeed, some have had a vaporization of revenue altogether in the last 30 days. As you know, even if the economy were restored tomorrow, it would take months to generate and invoice sponsor revenue, let alone receive it.”
As such, the Commission’s move to raise regulatory fees, Rotella believes, is “simply imprudent and will likely further hobble local broadcasters’ efforts to survive in the aftermath of COVID-19.”
Rotella also makes reference to NPRM responses filed with the FCC in June and December 2019, expressing economic concerns well before the COVID-19 pandemic brought ad revenue wrath to radio stations across the U.S.
With those 2019 actions taken into account, Rotella says, “There has been no reasonable explanation of the proposed regulatory fee increase that is cost-justified in the economic setting we were in during a pre-COVID-19 environment, let alone and especially in a post-COVID-19 economic underpinning. To be sure, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, this is not the time to raise fees.”
“Modernizing Regulatory Fee Rules to Level the Playing Field” is the title of a May 2020 meeting item as shared by the FCC.
The May Open Meeting is scheduled for May 13.
The Report and Order would, as the Republican-led FCC sees it, “level the playing field” between domestic and foreign licensed space stations by assessing a regulatory fee on non-U.S. licensed space stations with United States market access.
While that has little to do with broadcast radio, the NPRM — importantly — initiates the Commission’s annual regulatory fee proceeding.