In separate dissenting statements, Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn says the FCC majority erred in completely eliminating the rule. Instead of taking a “sledge hammer” to it, the three Republicans should have agreed to a compromise, like a more lenient waiver policy. And Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel says the action will “hollow out” broadcasting’s tradition of local service.
Democratic FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel, on the losing side of the FCC’s 3-2 vote to eliminate the 80-year-old main studio rule, lamented the action in separate statements.
“By eliminating the main studio rule in its entirety for all broadcast stations — regardless of size or location — the FCC signals that it no longer believes those awarded a license to use the public airwaves should have a local presence in their community,” said Clyburn.
“Yes, the very same majority that talks about embracing policies to promote job creation is paving the way for broadcast station groups, large and small, to terminate studio staff and abandon the communities they are obligated to serve.”
Clyburn said the majority did not have to take a “sledge hammer” to the rule.
She was prepared to go along with some proposed compromises — a more lenient waiver policy, for one. But after the majority rejected them, she said, she had no choice but to dissent.
Rosenworcel set up her complaint by citing two cases where radio stations failed to provide badly needed news and information during local emergencies because they were operating on auto-pilot. One occurred in Minot, N.D., in 2002, the other in Beaumont, Texas, just this past summer when Hurricane Harvey hit.
“I do not believe wiping out the main studio rule is going to solve problems like those in Minot and Beaumont,” she said. “I do not believe it will lead to better community coverage. I do not believe it will lead to more jobs.
“I do believe it will hollow out the unique role broadcasters play in local communities — a role that is not just tradition, but an essential part of broadcasting under the Communications Act.
Like Clyburn, she said she was sorry a compromise had eluded the FCC.
“I wish we would have agreed to simple waivers for the main studio rule anytime it would allow small- and mid-size stations to keep the lights on and continue to offer service to their communities of license.
“I regret we do not take those steps here and instead strip our rules of the very localism that makes broadcasting unique.”