Thursday, May 18, 2017

FCC Moves To Eliminate Main Studio Rule

The Federal Communications Commission has formally released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, proposing to eliminate the main studio rule. It requires each AM, FM and television broadcast station to have a main studio in or near its local community. The commission had indicated earlier that it planned to do so as new Chairman Ajit Pai moves quickly to pursue his agenda of removing what he sees as outdated or unnecessary regulations.

According to RadioWorld, the proposal would be a major change, removing a business restriction that U.S. broadcasters have taken as a given for decades yet chafed under. The notice also proposes to eliminate the requirement that the main studio have full-time management and staff present during normal business hours and the requirement that it be able to originate programming.

"The main studio rule, which the FCC adopted more than 70 years ago, was originally implemented on the premise that local access to the main studio facilitated input from community members and the station’s participation in community activities," the commission stated Thursday.

"Today, modern communications enable stations and community members to interact more directly, without the presence of a local broadcast studio. In addition, community members already, or soon will, have online access to a station’s public file, removing the need for community members to visit the main studio to access the file. Television broadcasters completed their transition to the online public file in 2014, and radio broadcasters will complete their transition by early 2018."

In commenting on the vote, which all three commissioners approved, Pai gave the example of a broadcaster in Minnesota who would like to build out a construction permit for an AM station in a nearby town, but who told Pai that the “Main Studio Rule is a killer; the cost to maintain a staff—it would make the construction of this facility a ticket of doom.” Read Pai's full statement below.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, the only Democrat on the panel (and its former acting chair), also voted yes but expressed reservations.

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