Top Markets Don't See Biggest FCC Fee Boost

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It's going to cost stations and cable operators a little more in 2006 for the privilege of being regulated by the FCC. While the top 10 broadcast markets still pay top dollar, their boost won't be as big as the markets just below them.

Cable will have to pay an extra 7 cents per sub, or about $49 million. That's up about $3 million over the year before. Full-power TV stations will have to pay a little under $18 million, or up about $1.5 million over last year.

Broadcasters' boost depends on the type of station and size of market.

VHF TV stations in markets 11-25 will see the biggest boost at $3,100 to $47,775, followed by the top 10 markets at a $2,800 boost to $64,775. Stations in markets 51-100 will have to pay $20,450, an additional $1,650, while ones in markets 26-50 will owe $32,875, only $850 more. Markets 100 and above will pay $5,025, or an extra $400.

Like the difference between Park Place and Baltic, the fees for UHF's are considerably lower. Again markets 11-25 saw the biggest increase, up $1,575 to $19,000. U's in markets 26-50 came in second at a $925 to $10,975. U's in the top 10 markets only had to pay an additional $725, while markets 51-100 had to pay another $375 to $6,500. Markets 100 and above only had to pony up an extra $50 to $1,775.

Because the FCC sets revenue targets for each category of licensee, the fewer stations there are, the more each has to pay.

In August, the FCC will start collecting the total $288,771,000 in fees it needs to run the commission, plus another $10 million for debt reduction. It decided not to recalculate the fees assessed cable and DBS.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association had asked that its fees be lowered and DBS be charged on a per-subscriber basis, as cable is, rather than a per-satellite license basis, saying both businesses had changed. The FCC said NCTA had not made the case.

In addition, the FCC said, even if it did agree with NCTA, there was not enough time to change the system and give parties the requisite 90-day notice before collecting the fees, which it needs to start doing in only a few weeks.

The Cable industry asked for the same change in 2005 and the FCC declined to make it then, too.

NCTA argues that since the cable industry has been dereguated, it takes up fewer commission resources, while DBS has faced increasing regulatory responsibilities.

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