The FCC this week voted to eliminate a requirement that radio and television stations must maintain and staff a main studio in each of their communities of license. Recognizing accessibility to stations electronically and costs associated with the rule that pulls funds from other areas where stations could be investing, the commission said the main studio requirement was “outdated and unnecessarily burdensome.” Indeed, in announcing the order to scrap this rule, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, “Continuing to require a main studio would detract from, rather than promote, a broadcaster’s ability and incentive to keep people informed and serve the public interest.”
Several NRB members weighed in on the repeal of this rule. For example, Moody Radio called main studio requirements “outdated, anachronistic and a considerable unnecessary economic burden on broadcasters, particularly on noncommercial, educational broadcast stations.” Houston Christian Broadcasters said, “Simply stated, technological innovations have rendered a local studio unnecessary as a means for viewers and listeners to communicate with or access their local stations.” And Blount Communications, while arguing for the rule to be lifted for all broadcasters, zeroed in on the needs of AM stations not in major population centers. “Simply put, the economic realities of operating such an AM station today require efficiencies that the main studio rule prevents,” Blount said.
The order to eliminate the main studio rule ended as a partisan 3-2 vote. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn was concerned about “the harms to communities that will no longer have a physical broadcast presence of their very own,” and Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel believed the rule’s elimination “will hollow out the unique role broadcasters play in local communities.”
Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr, on the other hand, suggested this may help some communities, particularly in rural areas. O’Rielly said, “While before a station may decide not to locate in an area because it could not support the requirements embedded in the main studio rule, today, the decision could be to expand rural coverage. I look forward to seeing how the market will evolve once the Commission removes an obsolete burden. “
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: October 27, 2017