The Commission has issued its annual Notice of Proposed Rule Making
(NPRM) to solicit comments on proposed changes to the regulatory
While the NPRM includes a number of proposed procedural changes, the
most striking of the proposals is in the amounts of the fees, which
will be due in September. According to the Commission, the total amount
of money that must be collected for each fee category will go up by 23
percent this year. Because that 23 percent increase is measured by
category, if the number of stations in a category has declined (e.g.,
AM stations), fee increases in such categories will be greater than 23
percent. On the other hand, where the number of stations in a category
has increased (e.g., FM stations), the fee increase may not be a full
The Commission also plans to amend the grid used in assessing AM and
FM fees. The current grid divides broadcast station regulatory fees by
class of station, population and type of service, to provide equitable
fee distributions. However, in recent years, there has been a trend
toward more powerful stations, and increases in the general population,
resulting in an ever-larger number of stations in the highest grid
category (i.e., stations in markets serving 1,000,000 or more
listeners). Thus, the Commission is proposing a change to the
population levels in each fee category to reflect wider population
fields and to add a new 3,000,000-plus category.
The Commission plans to revise its regulatory fee waiver policy.
Although fee waivers have historically been given in cases of financial
hardship, the Commission questions whether bankruptcy always represents
extraordinary and compelling circumstances justifying a waiver. A
policy of automatically granting a bankruptcy waiver to large entities
owing millions of dollars in fees, for example, might have significant
impact on the Commission's mandate to collect fees.
The FCC is undertaking several initiatives that will streamline the
process of collecting fees. These include the discontinuance of the
routine mailing of regulatory fee public notices to all affected
parties. Those public notices are dozens of pages long, and the costs
of reproduction and mailing are considerable. To conserve its
resources, the Commission proposes to make this information available
on the Internet, and mail out a full public notice only on request.
Along the same lines, the Commission is planning a pilot program to
mail postcards specifically stating the amount owed. The postcard will
identify the station call sign, address, facility identification number
and amount owed.
Auxiliary registration requirement
Licensees of broadcast auxiliary stations are now required to file a
Notification of Construction within one year after construction of any
auxiliary station has been completed. Stations that have recently
applied for and received an auxiliary license, or have modified an
existing auxiliary authorization, and have not filed the requisite
notification of completion of construction, now must do so or face a
To access the FCC for this purpose, go to the Universal Licensing
System (ULS) on the FCC website and enter your FRN and password. The
new system will lead you to FCC Form 601 and give you instructions on
how to complete the notification.
De facto DA a no-no
Is it permissible for an FM licensee with a non-directional antenna
to add to or change the installation of the antenna in such a way as to
give the signal directional properties? For example, a screen might be
erected behind the antenna, or the antenna might be moved to a face of
The answer is no. The Commission has a long-standing policy that
construction of facilities that are authorized as non-directional
should conform as closely as possible to the assumption of perfectly
circular horizontal radiation patterns. Its stated policy prohibits use
of any technique or means intentionally to distort the radiation
pattern of what is nominally a non-directional antenna.
Radio stations in North Carolina and South Carolina must file their
license renewal applications on or before Aug. 1, 2003. Radio stations
in those states and in California, Illinois and Wisconsin must file
their biennial ownership reports with the FCC and place their EEO
reports in their annual public files, also by Aug. 1.
Martin is an attorney with Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, PLC.,
Arlington, VA. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.