As we recently reported, the FCC has finalized the regulatory fee amounts broadcasters will be required to pay for Fiscal Year 2022—all FY 2022 regulatory fee payments must be made via CORES no later than 11:59 PM, EDT, on September 28, 2022. The Commission has now released additional documents providing information and resources for broadcasters preparing to pay their fees.
Regulatory Fee Facts Sheets and fccfees.com
In several recently released Regulatory Fees Fact Sheets (including one addressing “Media Services Licensees”—i.e., broadcasters—and one addressing general regulatory fee exemptions), the FCC has provided useful high-level guidance regarding the amount of regulatory fees each broadcaster owes for FY 2022, procedural payment information, and general regulatory fee exemptions. The FCC has also announced the availability of an online resource where broadcasters can look up their FY 2022 regulatory fees. By visiting fccfees.com (you may need to refresh your browser) and clicking on “View Fee Information and Exempt Status for any Broadcast Property,” broadcasters are able to search for broadcast facilities by Facility ID or Call Sign and view their fee amounts, fee codes, broadcast facility information, and other information pertinent to filing their FY 2022 regulatory fees. The website also contains helpful links to CORES and several other related resources.
Payment Methods and Procedures
By recent Public Notice (the “Payment Procedures Notice”), the FCC has provided further information regarding the payment methods and procedures for FY 2022 regulatory fees. As we have previously written, all regulatory fee payments must now be made via the FCC’s CORES platform (rather than the now-decommissioned “Fee Filer” payment platform), and must be made via credit or debit card, Automated Clearing House (ACH), or wire transfer. The Payment Procedures Notice provides additional information regarding payment procedures and restrictions relevant to each of the foregoing payment methods.
Requests for Waiver, Reduction, or Deferral of Fees
The FCC has also released a Public Notice (the “Notice”) detailing the procedures for filing requests for waiver, reduction, deferral, and installment payment of FY 2022 regulatory fees. As in 2020 and 2021, the FCC continues to make available various forms of “flexibility” for regulatory payors who are experiencing financial hardship caused or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the Notice enumerates the following forms of relief to FY 2022 regulatory fee payors:
- The FCC will not require separate filings of requests for fee waivers, reductions, deferrals, or extended payment terms (i.e., installment payment requests) for financial hardship, and instead will accept single submissions requesting any combination (or all) of the foregoing forms of relief. Such requests and all supporting documents must be submitted electronically to email@example.com on or before September 28, 2022.
- If an installment payment request is granted, the Commission will continue to both reduce the interest rate charged on installment payments to a “nominal rate” and waive the typical requirement to provide a down payment in order to be eligible for installment payments.
- Although (as discussed further below) requests for waiver, reduction, or deferral on financial hardship grounds must include supporting financial documents, the Notice indicates that Commission staff will inform and work with regulates seeking relief if additional documents are needed to render a decision on a relief request.
- The Notice continues to partially waive the FCC’s “red light” rule by permitting regulatees with outstanding debts owed to the Commission to nonetheless request waivers, reductions, deferrals, and installment payment terms for FY 2022 fees. (Please note, however, that regulatees for whom the red light rule is waived will be required to resolve all currently owed delinquent debt before the Commission issues a decision on their relief request.)
Waiver, Reduction, or Deferral on Financial Hardship Grounds. Requests for waiver or reduction of fees based on financial hardship must be accompanied by (1) either full payment of the 2022 fees or request for deferment, and (2) financial documentation demonstrating the broadcaster’s financial hardship. Financial documentation is an essential part of any waiver request based on financial hardship grounds, and must demonstrate that the applicant lacks sufficient funds to pay its regulatory fees in full while maintaining service to the public. The Notice recommends that applicants consider providing the following documents to demonstrate financial hardship: tax returns, a balance sheet and profit and loss statement (audited if possible), cashflow projections for the next 12 months, a list of officers and highest paid employees with each person’s compensation, and documents showing the pandemic’s effect on the applicant’s financial status (e.g., bank and investment account records, credit card statements, loan documents, etc.). As noted above, you may apply for waiver, deferment, and/or installment payments (see below) in a single request by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and including all required supporting documentation.
Waiver or Reduction on Grounds Other than Financial Hardship. Although the FCC will also accept requests for waiver or reduction of FY 2022 regulatory fees on grounds not based on financial hardship, a number of the modified and “more lenient” procedures and waivers of FCC rules noted above will not apply to such requests. Stations considering making such requests may wish to contact counsel to ensure they follow all necessary procedures.
Installment Payments. As noted above, requests for an installment payment of regulatory fees may be emailed to email@example.com, and may be combined with requests for waiver and/or reduction of fees. Documentation included with the request must demonstrate that the broadcaster cannot pay its regulatory fees in full by September 28, 2022. The FCC will work with parties applying for installment payments if additional documentation is needed. As discussed above, if an installment payment request is granted, the Commission will ease its typical requirements for such agreements, including by reducing the interest rate it typically charges to a nominal rate and waiving the usual 10% down payment.
Legal bulletin provided by Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard, LLP.