It is that time of year again. September is the month that Federal Communications Commission (FCC) licensees, including radio and television broadcasters, have to pay the federal government for the privilege of being a regulated industry. The fiscal year 2008 Annual Regulatory Fees must be paid to the FCC by Sept. 25, 2008. Payment may be made by check, money order, credit card, electronic debit or wire transfer, and can be submitted either in paper or electronically. Payments not made by 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 25 will face the addition of a 25 percent late fee.
On Aug. 11, 2008, the FCC released its Order adopting the rules for regulatory fees and establishing the fees that broadcasters and other licensees must pay this year. For AM stations, these fees range from $415 to $7,925, depending on the class of the station and the population that the FCC estimates that the station serves. For FM stations, the rates range from $600 to $10,200. UHF television stations will owe between $1,800 to $21,225, while VHF stations will pay between $5,600 and $71,050. Satellite television stations, which simply rebroadcast the signals of other stations, need pay only $1,175.
Although the regulatory fee covers the fiscal year Oct. 1, 2007 to Sept. 30, 2008, the current licensee of a broadcast station is responsible for the payment of the fee. So even if you just recently acquired a station, it is your responsibility to pay the 2008 regulatory fee for that station. Furthermore, fees are based on the status of the station as of Oct. 1, 2007. So stations that have upgraded and received a license for new facilities since Oct. 1, 2007, would pay for the facility as it was licensed on Oct. 1, 2007. Similarly, new stations that were constructed and licensed after Oct. 1, 2007 pay only for the construction permit that was in place as of Oct. 1, 2007. And those who obtained initial permits after Oct. 1, 2007 can avoid payment of the fee until next year.
The FCC has a helpful Web page, which includes instructions for submitting the regulatory fees. The site also contains a "Frequently Asked Questions" section and links to the database where you can submit fees electronically. The FCC also has a “look-up” database to allow stations to confirm the amount owed for their stations, which is available at www.fcc.gov/fees. In addition, for those needing more detail, the commission's full Order containing the fees for all types of licensees is available on the FCC's Web site.
In recent years, the FCC has enforced aggressively the regulatory fee filing requirement. A payment that is even one day late will automatically incur the 25 percent penalty. And if the fees and penalties are not paid after receipt of notice from the FCC, no applications for the licensee will be accepted or processed until the fees and penalties have been paid in full. That requirement has delayed the processing of innumerable applications in the last few years.
The FCC has been mailing notices to licensees, setting forth how much each station owes. In the past, however, not every station has received a notice, and not every notice has been accurate. The FCC places the obligation on the licensee to ensure that addresses in the commission's database are accurate. If the address is not accurate, or if the notice is not received for any reason, the FCC will not allow that as an excuse for a late payment. The bottom line is that licensees are responsible for paying their annual regulatory fees, regardless of whether or not any notice is received from the FCC.
Accordingly, licensees should submit their fees on time and make certain the payments are accurate. Be sure to keep a copy of all correspondence, electronic confirmations, and proof of payment when submitting the annual fees. We suggest that you take some extra time to ensure these fees are paid properly and that payment records are retained, to avoid later problems.