Annual Regulatory Fees Due September 25 – Expect Changes in TV Fees Starting Next Year

Just when you thought that it might be safe to stop watching your email and prepare to enjoy the long weekend, the FCC comes along and reminds you that there is work ahead in September. As we warned in our summary of the regulatory dates for broadcasters in September, the FCC announced the deadline for filing annual regulatory fees – they will be due by 11:59 pm ET on September 25, 2018. A copy of the FCC order announcing the amounts of the new fees is available here. The filing date is available on the FCC’s website. Fee information is provided in Appendix C of the decision, which begins on Page 18 of order. In the past, the Media Bureau has followed up with a Public Notice and Filing Guide specifically addressing fees to be paid by broadcasters. Expect to see that in the next few days.

The Order also announces in Paragraph 14 of the decision that the method calculating TV regulatory fees will be changing beginning next year. It will be moving to a system for setting fees more like that used in radio by assessing fees for full-power broadcast TV stations based on the population covered by the station’s contour, instead of by the station’s DMA. Beginning in 2019, the FCC plans to adopt a fee based on an average of the current DMA methodology and the population covered by a full-power broadcast TV station’s contour. Thereafter, in 2020, the FCC will assess regulatory fees for full-power broadcast TV stations based solely on the population covered by the station’s contour. But for this year, the FCC detailed the procedures for payment that are much the same as last year.

Fees are set based on the station’s status as of October 1, 2017. So if, on that date, your now-operating station was just a construction permit, you pay the construction permit fee. If you have upgraded since last October, you have one more year of paying the amount due for a station with the facilities that you had last year. This even applies to TV stations that relinquished their licenses as part of the FCC incentive auction – if the station had a license last October that has since been surrendered following the Incentive Auction, it still owes a fee for last year’s operations.

All regulatory fee payments must be made by online Automated Clearing House (ACH) payment, online credit card, or wire transfer. Any other form of payment (e.g., checks, cashier’s checks, or money orders) will be rejected. For payments by wire, a Form 159-E should still be transmitted via fax so that the Commission can associate the wire payment with the correct regulatory fee information.

The maximum payment amount that can be charged on a credit card is $24,999.99. Licensees who need to pay an amount greater than $24,999.99 should consider available electronic alternatives such as Visa or MasterCard debit cards, ACH debits from a bank account, and wire transfers.

Under FCC’s de minimis rule for regulatory fee payments, a company or other legal entity is exempt from paying regulatory fees if the sum total of all of its annual regulatory fee liabilities is $1,000 or less for the fiscal year. Generally, that means that holders of an FM or AM construction permit need not pay fees, if that is their only FCC authorization.

So check your bank account and make the payment by September 25. Failure to pay on time brings a 25% penalty and puts a hold on the processing of any of your FCC applications. Look for more information shortly when the Fee Filing Guides are released.