NAB Wants More Specifics From FCC On Regulatory Fee Change Proposals
June 23, 2015 at 2:16 PM (PT)
The NAB's comments in the FCC's rulemaking docket on regulatory fee changes for fiscal year 2015 warn that the proposals "need more specifics before stakeholders can offer useful feedback, while others should be abandoned because they will reduce the accuracy of the current fees." The Commission has previously based fees on the number of full-time employees allocated to working on issues regarding the various regulated categories by bureau, and has proposed reallocating full time employee resources to reflect their activities in the fees.
In the comments, the NAB points out that while the Commission offered that there are over double the number of radio licensees as there are TV licensees and the fees collected from each category are only slightly different, the Commission's rulemaking release was short on specifics. "In general," the comments read, "NAB supports Commission efforts to better align fees with the actual functions of employees, however, it is difficult to offer useful feedback on this inquiry without more information. Unlike previous instances when the Commission proposed fee changes because of shifting workloads or market changes, the Notice provides no evidence in support of reallocating fees between radio and television licensees."
The NAB is proposing a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking with specifics about the allocation of full time employees before proceeding with changes, and for consideration of comparisons of fees charged to broadcasters versus those for multichannel video programming distributors. It also us asking for a review of whether the full time employees assigned to the spectrum incentive auction should be reallocated out of the Media Bureau for fee purposes.
In addition, the NAB is opposing proposals to assess radio station fees based on market rank rather than population served, and to eliminate the distinction between the types and classes of stations to determine what fee they have to pay. "Switching to a market based approach would reduce the accuracy of the fees produced under the population served method," the NAB asserts. "For both AM and FM stations, population served is determined by a station’s field strength overlaid on the most recent population data from the U.S. Census Bureau. For AM stations, this equation turns on whether a station uses a nondirectional antenna, the spacing and orientation of a station’s tower, radiation patterns for its antenna system, and soil conductivity data, among other factors. For FM stations, the height above average terrain, directional pattern, and field strength propagation are critical. The key in both cases is that the data used to produce a station’s population served figure is particular to each station, which helps to generate a regulatory fee amount that reflects a station’s actual coverage and reach. Grouping stations within a band of market rankings (e.g., 1-10, 11-25, etc.) would diminish this station-specific accuracy, resulting in similar fees for some vastly different stations."