Wed, Nov 10, 1999
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Clinton Proposes $200 Million Fee on TV Broadcasters
WASHINGTON — Commercial television stations would have to pay a total of $200 million a year for use of the public airwaves under a proposal buried in the Clinton administration's fiscal 2000 spending plan.

The provision, sure to draw strong opposition from broadcasters, directs the Federal Communications Commission to start collecting the fees by Sept. 30, 2000, ending decades of free use of the airwaves for television.

The money raised would be used to fund a series of unrelated Clinton initiatives, including putting more police on the streets and funding programs in the Justice Department and Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The airwave fee would only apply to current analog use of the airwaves. Broadcasters that switched over to new digital technology and returned the airwaves they had been using for analog shows would be exempted.

The transition to digital television is expected to take many years, however, as few TV sets capable of receiving digital transmissions are on the market and most cost $7,000 or more.

Broadcasters had no immediate reaction. "We haven't had time to digest what it means yet," said National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton.

President Clinton sent his fiscal 2000 budget proposals to Congress Monday morning.

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