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MMTC Seconds FCC’s Assessment on Main Studio Rule

Group says the Internet has outdated some of the main studio requirements

It’s time to move the broadcast industry into the 21st Century, and that starts by eliminating the main studio rule, so says the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council in comments to the Federal Communications Commission.

“The main studio rule was conceived 80 years ago, before the Second World War and many decades before the internet,” the MMTC said in its comments on the main studio Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. “Given the passage of time and the fact that the world is now in the digital age, it is appropriate that the rule’s continued existence be reexamined in a formal proceeding.”

The organization touched on some of the benefits that it sees for stations, including a series of economic benefits, such as the ability to consolidate operations at a single main office. This will give licensees the ability to more efficiently monitor its far-flung stations, the group said. With such streamlining, stations will be better positioned to “carry out the other traditional functions they [serve],” the MMTC said.

The organization also said that it concurs with the commission’s assessment that the program origination capability requirement should be eliminated. While retaining the requirement that stations retain program origination capability is probably a good idea from a public interest standpoint, eliminating the requirement is unlikely to cause stations to alter their fundamental service profiles and is outweighed by other benefits, the MMTC said. “All station documents that should be available to the public will be accessible online,” the MMTC said.

The organization also addressed the issue of staffing requirements as posed under the NPRM by saying that online posting of telephone numbers is “adequate under most circumstances,” and that stations should not have to hire someone specifically to handle telephone calls, emails and other electronic messages from the public, though a staff member should be assigned to monitor incoming communications.

In regard to special emergency situations, those issues can be addressed by requiring stations to subscribe to an answering service, such as one that physicians offer. In a true emergency where the need arises to broadcast time-sensitive emergency information, this operator can convey the message to a designated staffer’s personal cellphone or other mobile device, the group said in their comment filing.

In addition, when a station is broadcasting in an automated mode, EAS announcements will be available throughout the community.

The group gave particular emphasis to the issue of communication by saying that the ubiquitous nature of cellphones and other digital devices means that listeners and viewers will continue to give voice to their reactions to stations’ programming and report breaking news in real time.

“Indeed, it has become increasingly apparent that every smartphone user is potentially a ‘broadcast journalist,’” the group said in their filing. “In short, elimination of the main studio rule should not impair the public’s access to stations’ management. Likewise, a station’s ability to interact with audiences on its website, over Facebook, Twitter or other social media platforms, will be unaffected.”

Reply commentary to mains studio comments can be made within the ECFS database using MB Docket No. 17-106 by July 17.