FCC Eliminates Main Studio Rule

FCC Juan Alberto Ayala Translator AbuseThe FCC has voted 3-2 along party lines to eliminate the Main Studio Rule at today’s Open Meeting of FCC Commissioners.

Stations will still be required to maintain local or toll-free phone numbers and public file materials that isn’t online accessible for the communities they serve, but will no longer be required to have a studio in or near the station’s city-of-license. The Main Studio Rule was adopted in the Communications Act of 1934 which established the FCC requiring stations to have a studio in its city of license and was modified in the 1970s to allow the studio to be within 25 miles.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai had previously stated that the rule was outdated because in the digital age the community has access and can engage with stations via social media or email without having a physical studio nearby and that maintaining a physical address is an expense better put to other uses, like adding more local programming.

The FCC claims that it will reduce regulatory burdens and costs for broadcasters that can be directed toward such things as programming, equipment upgrades, newsgathering, and other services that benefit consumers. In theory a group owner can now consolidate all programming into a handful of studio locations across the country with little to no content originating in the community or markets a radio or television serves. Instead of renting big studio complexes for their clusters, a company can make do with a small office facility to host sales and a few promotions people.

NAB Executive Vice Presidentof Communications Dennis Wharton stated:

“NAB supports elimination of the main studio rule, which has outlived its usefulness in an era of mobile news gathering and multiple content delivery platforms. We’re confident that cost savings realized from ending the main studio rule will be reinvested by broadcasters in better programming and modernized equipment to better serve our local communities. We applaud the FCC for continuing to remove unnecessary and outdated broadcast regulations.”

The Federal Communications Commission today eliminated the broadcast main studio rule. The Order retains the requirement that stations maintain a local or toll-free telephone number to ensure consumers have ready access to their local stations.

The main studio rule, adopted nearly 80 years ago, currently requires each AM radio, FM radio, and television broadcast station to have a main studio located in or near its local community. The rule was implemented to facilitate input from community members and the station’s participation in community activities.

The Commission recognizes that today the public can access information via broadcasters’ online public file, and stations and community members can interact directly through alterative means such as e-mail, social media, and the telephone. Given this, the Commission found that requiring broadcasters to maintain a main studio is outdated and unnecessarily burdensome.

Elimination of the main studio rule should produce substantial cost-saving benefits for broadcasters that can be directed toward such things as programming, equipment upgrades, newsgathering, and other services that benefit consumers. It will also make it easier for broadcasters to prevent stations in small towns from going dark and to launch new stations in rural areas.

Action by the Commission October 24, 2017 by a Report and Order (FCC 17-137). Chairman Pai, Commissioners O’Rielly and Carr approving. Commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel dissenting. Chairman Pai, Commissioners Clyburn, O’Rielly, Carr and Rosenworcel issuing separate statements.

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Lance Venta is the Owner and Publisher of RadioInsight.com and a consultant for RadioBB Networks specializing in integration of radio and the internet. Lance has two decades of experience tracking the audio industry and its use of digital platforms.

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