UHF Reg Fees Hiked

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As expected, owners of UHF stations will see a hefty increase in this year's bill from the Federal Communications Commission. The commission Monday approved its proposed 2004 regulatory fees, which hike payments all UHF stations must pay for the privilege of being regulated by the FCC. Most VHF stations by contrast will get a fee cut.

For UHF stations in top-10 markets, the fee is $17,775, up 12% from fiscal 2003. In markets 11-25 the fee is going up 26% to $16,175; markets 26-50 will get a 15% boost to $9,300; markets 51-100, up 12% to $5,550, remaining markets up 16% to $1,650.

For VHF stations, only those in top-10 markets will pay more--an increase of 5% to $60,350. The rest will go down between 3% and 9%.

The UHF hikes resulted from a culling of exempt stations from the pool of stations used to calculate the fees. Because the FCC sets revenue targets for each category of licensee, a drop in the number of paying stations means the remaining ones have to pay more.

Fee waivers are granted for financial hardship or other reasons and UHF stations are more likely to win exemptions than VHF. A similar culling of the rolls led to higher fees for some radio stations. Broadcasters did not object to the increases.

Over the objections of the NCTA, cable operators’ annual regulatory fees are going up 6%, compared to an average of 1.5% for all telecom providers overseen by the FCC. Each system will pay 70 cents per sub and $135 per satellite relay license, up from 66 cents and $90, respectively, in 2003.

On orders from Congress, the FCC will take in $273 million in regulatory fees from all of its licensees, up 1.5% from 2003. Licensees will be billed via postcard.

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