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NAB Slams FCC for Fee Hike

(Image credit: NAB)

The FCC has signaled it does not plan to change its plans to raise broadcast regulatory fees, a move that has the National Association of Broadcasters pushing back hard.

The commission voted May 13 to propose collecting $339 million in regulatory fees for 2020, including the fee increase for broadcasters. The FCC did seek comment as part of the approved Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)--which is not a final order--on how the FCC could help regulated entities hammered by the pandemic.

But NAB said the FCC has not explained why it has denied broadcasters relief given the pandemic.

Related: Broadcasters Ask FCC to Suspend Fee Hike, Citing Pandemic

In comments this week on the NPRM, NAB said said the FCC's approach was "patently unfair and likely unlawful." But it was not done. It said the FCC needed to get its head out of its sandbox and recognize the inequity of its approach, and the "stranglehold" it puts on the industry, especially during a national crisis.

The NAB said the FCC "(a) fails to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on broadcasters’ ability to sustain yet another increase in fees; (b) continues to offer opaque explanations for how it arrives at its conclusions; and (c) and ignores the considerable Commission resources that industries such as the tech industry use to the detriment of broadcasters and other licensees."

NAB also points to apparent declines in the FTEs (full time employees) in the wireline bureaus, while the FTE numbers for the Media Bureau remained steady. The FCC's fees are based on how many FTE's it takes to regulate a particular service--broadcast, cable, satellite, wireless. "[T]he unrelated decreases in these other Bureaus may have caused the overall percentage of direct Commission FTEs attributed to the Media Bureau to increase," it said. But, given that it is "virtually impossible for interested parties to discern the Commission’s process," said NAB, it is "at a loss as to understand how the Commission can repeatedly fail to explain how it arrives at its numbers."

NAB said the FCC has to confirm that "its allocation of both direct and indirect FTEs to the Media Bureau is accurate and fact-based, and not just a convenient by-product of staff reductions in other bureaus."

John Eggerton
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.