FCC Proposes to Boost DBS Regulatory Fee Again

The FCC has proposed to continue raising the DBS regulatory fee to get it closer to the fee cable operators pay and wants to know whether changes in the fee process passed by Congress in the RAY BAUMs FCC reauthorization act affects that decision.

That is according to the FY 2019 regulatory fee Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted this week by the FCC. The FCC has to collect $339 million in regulatory fees to cover its operating expenses.

The FCC is proposing to raise the cable fee from 77 cents to 86 cents, and DBS from 48 cents to 60 cents.

Fees are based on how many full time employees (FTEs) it takes to regulate a particular service.

The FCC's Media Bureau has to collect $67.02 from cable, IPTV and DBS in 2019 and proposes to assess Cable and IPTV at the same per-sub rate, but DBS is treated differently, or at least has been.

Satellite broadcasters used to be assessed a smaller, per-license fee, but the FCC in 2015 changed that to the same per-sub fee basis it uses for cable and IPTV, and began lowering cable fees and raising satellite.

That per-sub satellite fee began at 12 cents per sub, but the FCC has been raising it annually to move closer to the cable/IPTV rate, increasing it to 27 cents, 38 cents, 48 cents, and the new, proposed, 60 cents. It has been cutting the cable rate at the same time, from 96 cents in 2017 to 77 cents in 2018, but it is proposing raising it to 86 cents unless it decides to increase DBS to match cable and IPTV.

DirecTV owner AT&T and Dish have asked for no increase, while cable operators have argued that the FCC should move immediately to parity.

Instead, the FCC has continued to raise the rate, but it is also asking if it can, or should, continue to do so. "[W]e invite comment concerning whether this continued 'phase in' is still permissible under the RAY BAUM’S Act and whether this continued 'phase in' is still good policy," the FCC said. "In the alternative, we seek comment on including DBS fully in the cable television/IPTV rate, which would then be approximately 77 cents per subscriber per year [for both cable and DBS], or adopting a different rate for DBS."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.