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Broadcasters to FCC: Localism Isn’t About Bricks & Mortar

Say main studio rule is hindrance, not help

The FCC got plenty of support from broadcasters — commercial and noncommercial — for its proposal not to require them to have a physical studio where they broadcast.

The FCC voted May 18 to propose eliminating the main studio rule, which for almost eight decades has required a TV or radio station to maintain a main studio in, or at least near, its community of license.

“[T]he elimination of the main studio rule and related staffing and equipment requirements will reduce regulatory burdens on broadcasters, resulting in cost savings and other efficiencies that will allow stations to better serve their audiences,” said the National Association of Broadcasters.

Hubbard Broadcasting, which pointed out it has been in the business for almost a hundred years — predating the rule — said the rule has meant increasing burdens without any meaningful consumer benefit.

“Given the widespread availability of social media and other technologies that allow the public to communicate with broadcasters, and the continuous online availability of broadcasters’ public inspection files, the NPRM tentatively concludes that the main studio rule is now ‘outdated and unnecessarily burdensome.’ Hubbard agrees, and believes that the rule now simply serves as an artificial barrier to broadcasters seeking to allocate their resources in a manner that best serves their listeners and viewers.”

The FCC had asked for input on how many in-person visits stations received from community members. Nexstar said that it had polled four of its stations and, aside from scheduled tours, none had had any walk-in visitors in the past 12 months.

It also pointed out that the FCC had waived the requirement for many noncoms, and they continued to be responsive to their communities “even in the absence of a brick and mortar building filled with at least two employees.”

Noncoms agreed, though with a little rhetorical dig at their commercial counterparts.

“While the principle of localism remains a vital as ever, a regulatory obligation to maintain a main studio rule in any given place is no longer needed to preserve localism,” NPR said in its comments. “The main studio rule forces public radio stations to allocate scarce resources to satisfy the rule regardless of the information and programming needs and interests of a station’s community of license, at least in the case of public radio …”

Initial comments were due July 3, with replies due July 17.

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