Is Main Studio Rule Doomed? FCC to Take Up the Matter

"Based on a tentative finding that the rule is now outdated and unnecessarily burdensome for broadcast stations"

Possibly presaging historic changes, the Federal Communications Commission is set to take up a discussion of the future of broadcasting’s longstanding main studio rule.

At its May meeting, it will consider whether to start a notice of proposed rulemaking about whether most U.S. radio and TV stations should still be required to have a main studio in or near their city of license. A “yes” outcome on that question next month -- whether to start an NPRM -- seems certain, which will move the idea to the front burner of industry discussion and regulatory consideration, and likely launch new debate over what, exactly, is necessary for broadcasters to provide local service.

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“The commission will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would propose to eliminate the commission’s main studio rule, based on a tentative finding that the rule is now outdated and unnecessarily burdensome for broadcast stations,” it announced in a draft agenda of its May meeting. Chairman Pai and Commissioner O’Rielly, majority Republicans on the panel, have both been vocal about the need to update the commission rules, and they have to varying degrees been critical of that rule specifically.

Several organizations have pressed the commission to explore such a change, most recently law firm Garvey Schubert Barer and the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council.

Separately but related, the FCC also will consider whether to start a review of all rules applicable to media entities and seek comment on what rules should be modified or repealed. Chairman Pai at the NAB Show indicated this week that this was coming.

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