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FCC Proposes Upping DBS, TV Station Reg Fees

The FCC is proposing to double DBS regulatory fees for fiscal year 2016 and boost top 10 broadcast station regulatory fees by almost a third.

That is according to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted by the FCC this week. The FCC will now collect comment before voting on a final order.

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The FCC said it conceded that the broadcast incentive auction was a "substantial event" in 2016 and sought comment on how it might impact the fees. But while it got that comment, the FCC concluded that "it is too early to revise our regulatory fee apportionment because of the uncertainty in events that have yet to happen," though it said it planned to "consider any changed circumstances due to the incentive auction as part of the FY 2017 regulatory fee proceeding."

DBS was moved under the MVPD category in 2015 with a 12-cent-per-sub fee, based on how much time FCC staffers have to allocate to regulating it.

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Satellite providers had been paying on a per-satellite-license basis, while other multichannel video programming distributors paid on a per-subscriber basis. Cable ops had pushed for more parity.

The FCC said the big boost was to bring it more in line with the fees charged other MVPDs, like cable operators, and, in part, because of the new regs the FCC was imposing, including on set-top boxes, the FCC's new online public file posting requirement for MVPDs, implementation of the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM Act) and the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, STELAR, and more (yes, they get to pay for the privilege of more regs).

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As a result, the FCC said, "based on our analysis of the resources dedicated to this subcategory, including the resources dedicated to the pending portfolio of MVPD proceedings, we propose to revise the DBS fee rate. Specifically...we seek comment on a higher regulatory fee rate of 27 cents per subscriber per year for FY 2016, as set forth in the proposed fee schedule. This fee includes a 24 cent per subscriber baseline with a proportional adjustment of three cents per subscriber associated with facilities reduction costs."

On the broadcaster side, the FCC is proposing to up the annual fee for top 10 broadcast stations from $46,825 in FY 2015 to $60,775 in 2016 and increase the fee in markets 11-25 from $43,200 to $45,750.

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The FCC said the big jump for top 10 was to bring it back to the historic metric of paying twice what the 11-25 markets paid, saying "at this time, we tentatively conclude that this proposal will make the regulatory fees for television broadcasters more rational." The National Association of Broadcasters had no comment on the proposal, but the FCC pointed out no one had commented when it proposed the true-up in the 2015 Report and Order.

The FCC is also proposing to boost fees in markets 26-50 from $27,625 to $30,575, reducing them from $16,275 to $15,225 in markets 51-100, and upping them by $150 per year, from $4,850 to $5,000 in the smallest markets.

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.