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NAB to FCC: Some TV Fees Should Shift to Wireless

The FCC is proposing changes to its regulatory fee structure and broadcasters want it to reallocate some of their fees to wireless licensees given that the FCC is reallocating broadcast spectrum to wireless broadband though the incentive auction.

The FCC pays for itself out of those regulatory fees, which are based on the number of full-time employees (FTEs) allocated to each service.

In comments to the FCC Tuesday (Nov. 10), the National Association of Broadcasters said that the Communications Act allows the FCC to adjust its fees to reflect changes in "the 'nature of its services as a consequence of Commission rulemaking proceedings or changes in law.'" Given the incentive auction rulemaking, it says, "the only equitable approach is for the regulatory fees to “follow the spectrum.”

Among the things the FCC is seeking comment on is whether to invoke that provision, as NAB has requested.

NAB points out that at an 84 MHz clearing target, 200 TV stations will be giving up their channels, and that number jumps to 400 if the FCC can clear 120 MHz.

Given that it is a "zero sum proposition," NAB points out, "a reduction in the number of payers in one fee category will increase the share of other payers in that category." If the FCC does not shift some of the cost on to wireless, it could create an "alarming" increase (as much as 35% in some cases) in TV station user fees.

And while broadcasters and cable operators are in a pitched battle over retrans and other issues, NAB does not suggest that MVPDs should get a bump in fees.

"Fairness prohibits simply reallocating a portion of television fees to other entities regulated by the Media Bureau, since a reduction in MB oversight of television will have no bearing on the regulation of radio, cable or DBS providers."

Unsurprisingly, CTIA, which represents those wireless carriers, says the FCC should not increase its fees, or at least not without a lot more study.

“As CTIA has demonstrated previously, the wireless sector already contributes more to the Commission’s budget than any other industry segment…,” CTIA said in its filing. “The Commission must therefore deny any proposals that seek to increase the wireless industry’s share of regulatory fees without further analysis and transparency given the considerable impact those proposals could have on regulatees.”