FCC Eliminates Its Main Studio Rule

The commission says the action will further reduce regulatory burdens and costs for broadcasters. NAB and MMTC applaud the action.

The FCC today eliminated its broadcast main studio rule that currently requires each TV, AM and FM station to have a main studio located in or near its local community. 

The action came on a 3-2 with the two Democrats, Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn dissenting.

Nearly 80 years old, the rule was implemented to facilitate input from community members and the station’s participation in community activities. 

The commission’s new order retains the requirement that stations maintain a local or toll-free telephone number to ensure consumers have ready access to their local stations.

In axing the rule, the FCC said it “recognizes that today the public can access information via broadcasters’ online public file, and stations and community members can interact directly through alternative means such as e-mail, social media, and the telephone.”

Given this, it found that requiring broadcasters to maintain a main studio is outdated and unnecessarily burdensome. 

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Elimination of the main studio rule, the FCC said, “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.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement: “The overwhelming majority of public input favored our proposal. The record shows that main studios are no longer needed to enable broadcasters to be responsive to their communities of license. That’s because the public these days is much more likely to interact with stations (including accessing stations’ public files) online. Additionally, technology allows broadcast stations to produce local news even without a nearby studio.

“The record also shows that getting rid of the rule will help broadcasters serve viewers and listeners, especially those in small towns and rural areas where the cost of compliance dissuades broadcasters from even launching stations.”

And NAB EVP of Communications Dennis Wharton voiced support, saying the rule “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 Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council congratulated the FCC on the move. 

“The…rule is a textbook example of a market entry barrier whose deregulation serves the public interest,” said Kim Keenan, president-CEO of MMTC. “In practice the rule drove capital away from multicultural broadcasters who were unable to operate as efficiently as other broadcasters who could house more stations in a single main studio. The commission has done the right thing by targeting this obsolete rule for repeal.”


Comments (10)

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Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

October 24, 2017 at 3:59 pm

To quote from the story: “Elimination of the main studio rule, the FCC said, ‘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. …’ ” The savings should be directed toward that, but it likely will end up in the pockets of corporations and shareholders as usual.

    Peter Grewar says:

    October 24, 2017 at 10:40 pm

    Eliminating the main studio rule may help some small struggling broadcasters — but I suspect that the big radio groups won’t put a cent of that money towards programming, news gathering, or equipment upgrades.

Shenee Howard says:

October 24, 2017 at 5:34 pm

Within 10 years broadcasters like Sinclair will have 5 studios nationwide, with a mostly centralized news program in all 170+ markets. In the public interest? Nope.

    Peter Grewar says:

    October 24, 2017 at 10:38 pm

    While I suspect that you are right, I also think that if broadcasters like Sinclair do that, they’ll find themselves getting soundly beat by stations that maintain a local news department and continue to operate out of their local markets. Past experiments at “centralcasting” local newscasts have been spectacularly unsuccessful.

    Julien Devereux says:

    October 25, 2017 at 10:11 am

    It’s RADIO they’re talking about. This means that in the thousand signals that iHeart has on the air (including HD sideband stations and translators) the only people working will be in the Premier hub. Cumulus can fire everyone and run every station by Westwood One. Sales? Programmatic. There goes 10,000 jobs, and an entire industry goes down the toilet. But not to worry, upper management will be fine, after all, look at the bonuses they’ll get with no salaries to pay.

Fred Corbus says:

October 24, 2017 at 5:44 pm

Thus as broadcasters last stake in the ground is local, local , local. This removes that. Now I can centralize all broadcasting. Look like I am there, but if a viewer or listener wants to come to the station. Nope. An office maybe, but to the station nope. Also means less involvement by the folks on the air. If I broadcast from Miami to a stick in Lexington Kentucky. How involved am I in Lexington. Not much.

Matt Hortobagyi says:

October 24, 2017 at 7:58 pm

Viewers are smarter than we give them credit.They can tell f it is no longer local. It will be reflected in ratings and revenue.

Kaylor Blakley says:

October 24, 2017 at 8:30 pm

What a shame.

Fred E Walker says:

October 25, 2017 at 2:28 pm

I think a better move would have been to remove the burdensome farce that is E/I (Educational / Informational) requirement for broadcast TV stations. This rule has been exploited time and again by less than credible programming companies (i.e. Syndicators) and the ads alone will tell you, few, if any kids, tweens or teens are watching. If you doubt that, then just check the young viewer ratings by the Nielsen “Guestimates”. Turn those programming hours back over to the stations, let them fill with relevant news or local programming (not paid), for their individual markets. As far as radio, iheart killed that industry long ago.

Jean Garneau says:

October 25, 2017 at 5:55 pm

If I were still in broadcasting and knew this was on the table, I’d already have a centralization plan in place.


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