When the Federal Communications Commission published AM revitalization actions and further proposals last fall, it also cracked open a door, at least a little bit, regarding possible changes to the main studio rule under which full-power broadcasters operate. Now some are eager to barge through.
The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council, filing comments with the FCC, says the main studio rule discourages minorities from getting into this business and no longer serves a legitimate purpose.
The rule requires full-power stations in the United States to maintain a studio in the city of license, or at a site within 25 miles of the city or within the city-grade contour of any station licensed to the city. But MMTC calls the rule “a 20th century holdover that should be abolished or modified to recognize 21st century technologies.”
MMTC argues that eliminating the rule would provide broadcasters with a substantial opportunity to benefit from competitive cost efficiencies. Further, “If the commission does not eliminate the Main Studio Rule, it should provide whatever tangible and immediate relief it can,” the organization wrote.
It also said the FCC should immediately begin granting main studio waivers to both non-commercial and commercial broadcasters, using a more relaxed interpretation of its“good cause” standard. The commission should not specify an inflexible distance standard and should relax its relax the current staffing requirements.
As Radio World has reported, the FCC raised questions about the relevance of the main studio rule when it laid out AM revitalization steps and further possible changes last fall. But it seems unlikely the FCC would go so far as to remove it entirely, at least based on language in the revitalization order. At that time, the FCC explained that it has historically considered a station’s main studio to constitute the location from which the station can adequately meet its function of serving the needs and interests of the residents of its community of license. This includes being adequately equipped to transmit programming, having a meaningful management and staff presence, and serving as a location for the station’s public file.
“Despite … advances in accessibility to broadcast stations and their personnel,” the FCC wrote in October, “we are reluctant to eliminate main studio requirements entirely, because of the aforementioned importance of the main studio to the goal of ensuring station compliance with local service obligations. We therefore seek comment on whether, and how, to modify the main studio rule in light of our goal in this proceeding to revitalize the AM service.” Most of the questions the FCC then asked revolved around waivers and possible modifications to the existing rules.