By 3-2 Vote FCC Eliminates Main Studio Rule

By 3-2 Vote FCC Eliminates Main Studio Rule”

The FCC on Tuesday voted to eliminate a rule that required broadcast station groups to maintain a physical presence in the community of their primary local coverage area, a move that critics say will help media companies further consolidate their operations and even be a boost to the ambitions of Sinclair Broadcast Group.

The main studio rule is history. CLYBURN voted to issue the NPRM but called the public notice proposal "a disgusting idea with no discernible benefit to consumers".

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.

Having a local presence is especially important during times of disaster, such as recent hurricanes, Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said while dissenting from today's vote.

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

In comments filed at the FCC in response to the agency's proposal to eliminate the rules, NPR said the regulations placed unnecessary burdens on public radio stations and should be eliminated - at least for public radio stations. 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.

It alternatively seeks comment on whether its broadcast application public notice rule should be eliminated altogether. According to an official FCC explanation, this requirement "facilitate [d] interaction between a station and its community". "NHPR has been fortunate enough to obtain the necessary waivers, but the costs and risks associated with obtaining these waivers have been a factor in the cost-benefit analysis each time NHPR has decided whether to expand its network through the acquisition of a new station".

Sinclair's purchase of the Tribune stations will require FCC approval.

Chairman Ajit Pai stated that the old rule "would detract from, rather than promote, a broadcaster's ability and incentive to keep people informed and serve the public interest" considering today's current technology.

Commercial broadcasters also supported the elimination of the rules.

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".

But some FCC commenters opposed elimination of the rules, including the advocacy group Free Press. "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".

Commissioner Michael O'Rielly said the elimination reflects how the public now interacts with local businesses - not by visiting their facilities, but through telecommunications and social media. "The thing that differentiates terrestrial radio, particularly public radio, from Pandora or Spotify is that we are based in communities and directly serve our communities' needs". "It does not eliminate localism", he said, adding there wasnot causal connection between the rule and programming localism, though he did say that getting rid of it might lead to more localism by helping smaller stations be more competitive. "With the planned elimination of the local studio rule, they will have a green light to do so".

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.

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