FCC proposes a 6% reduction in radio regulatory fees

FCC proposes a 6% reduction in radio regulatory fees

The committee also wants to omit pandemic-related financial aid

The Federal Communications Commission has delivered good news to broadcasters by proposing lower regulatory fees in its budget for the new fiscal year that begins this fall.

The agency is proposing a 6% reduction in fees paid by AM and FM broadcasters to help fund the Media Bureau’s annual operations. This is the second consecutive reduction, after last year’s decline of 5 to 7%. The established supervisory fees are due no later than October 1.

The committee shall have the authority to annually determine and collect supervisory fees in an amount equal to the annual appropriation amount. For fiscal year 2024, the commission must recover more than $390 million to cover all direct costs, such as salaries for the expected 1,600 full-time employees.

Broadcasters will help cover the operating costs of the FCC’s Media Bureau and its 140 full-time employees, which has a budget of approximately $114 million. Broadcasters will account for almost half of that, or $55.1 million.

Overall, the Media Bureau’s budget represents 29.4% of the FCC’s total budget.

Radio and TV broadcasters are also taking a break, with the committee deciding that the salaries of Under the compensation proposal, 63 full-time employees in the Office of General Counsel, the Office of Economics and Analytics and the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau will no longer be shared by broadcasters.

Overall, the FCC’s proposed $390 million budget is a 14.8% increase over the previous year, according to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The agency hopes to add about 75 full-time employees with the new budget.

The proposal would also end the temporary relief measures the commission has put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The FCC has provided some temporary relief through a combination of partial rule waivers to supervisory fee payers experiencing financial difficulties caused or exacerbated by the pandemic, but plans to eliminate these temporary measures in FY 2024.

“The circumstances for which the measures were temporarily introduced have changed. The National Emergency COVID-19 pandemic has ended,” the FCC said in the proposal.

In addition, the commission says that channels that are dark, or were recently dark, no longer deserve an automatic exemption from regulatory fees. Instead, the committee says it will choose to waive fees on a case-by-case basis.

“We instead propose to require these licensees to submit supporting financial documentation with their reimbursement requests to demonstrate that the financial hardship is sufficient to warrant fee waivers, just as all other statutory fee payers are required to do…,” the FCC says in the NPRM.

However, to provide supervisory fee payers more time to make the necessary changes to comply with the policy change, the FCC is proposing to make the change effective beginning in FY 2025.

The National Association of Broadcasters will likely be happy with the compensation proposal. The NAB has argued that statutory fees for broadcasters have been too high and has earlier asked the commission to review its methodology for calculating the fee schedule. The NAB suggested that the FCC should redistribute some of the costs to industries that benefit from the work performed.

The FCC is seeking comment on the annual fee NPRM through July 15 (Docket No. 24-86). Comments must be submitted by July 29.

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