NAB Submits Comments to FCC Over Fee Increases for Radio


The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) submitted comments on Friday to the FCC in response to the Commission's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning regulatory fees for Fiscal Year 2019. NAB claims the NPRM proposes "extraordinary" regulatory fee increases for radio stations for Fiscal Year 2019, while providing little or no explanation. The trade association says that the agency has a checkered history when it comes to clearly explaining the basis for its collection of regulatory fees.

In 2012, the Government Accountability Office concluded that the FCC's regulatory fee process lacked transparency and reported a lack of information in FCC regulatory fee notices. Unfortunately, NAB says the current NPRM suffers from the same confounding flaws. Instead, the NPRM offers only conclusory statements about the Commission's operations and its allocations of regulatory expenses. What bits of information the Commission has provided are left unexplained and, if anything, appear to contradict other publicly available Commission data.

As a result, NAB writes, "Commenters responsible for paying these taxes for regulation are left with no ability to provide meaningful input in this proceeding because the Commission has withheld or obscured the basis for its proposals. We urge the Commission to immediately provide further information to allow stakeholders to constructively participate in this proceeding. Without such data, the comment process is virtually worthless."

NAB is urging the Commission to take this opportunity to reconsider the basis on which it determines which entities are subject to regulatory fees. The Commission is not bound to collect regulatory fees solely from licensees. Under the current as well as proposed framework, however, the trade group claims licensees subsidize companies -- including well-funded competitors -- who benefit from the Commission's activities but do not contribute towards their funding.

These regulatory free riders leverage Commission proceedings and the hard and ongoing work of Commission staff to develop profitable business models without contributing regulatory fees. By expanding the base of contributors, the Commission can significantly lower the regulatory taxes currently paid by some licensees while making its collection as a whole more accurately reflect the work of the Commission and those who benefit from that work NAB said.

With a roughly $17 million increase in budget for the 2019 fiscal year, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 states the Commission must either raise the regulatory fees for at least some categories of payors -- or expand the base of contributors. However, while the overall budget is expanding by a modest 5.3 percent, NAB claims the impact on the radio industry is more severe, with regulatory fee increases of 18-20 percent for most stations.

"The NPRM provides no coherent explanation for the steep and disproportionate increase directed to radio licensees," NAB wrote. "Absent additional information, commenters cannot reasonably provide meaningful feedback in response to the NPRM."


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