The FCC voted to do away with the main studio rule that required AM, FM and television broadcast stations to operate a main studio in each community they serve.
The rule, established nearly 80 years ago, will retain the requirement that broadcasters operate a local or toll-free phone number to ensure a way for consumers to contact the stations.
“The Commission recognizes that today the public can access information via broadcasters’ online public file, and stations and community members can interact directly through alternative means such as e-mail, social media and the telephone. Given this, the Commission found that requiring broadcasters to maintain a main studio is outdated and unnecessarily burdensome,” the FCC wrote in a release (PDF).
The commission is positioning the decision as a means of generating cost-savings for broadcasters that can be used toward programming, equipment upgrades and newsgathering.
“The overwhelming majority of public input favored our proposal. The record shows that main studios are no longer needed to enable broadcasters to be responsive to their communities of license. That’s because the public these days is much more likely to interact with stations (including accessing stations’ public files) online. Additionally, technology allows broadcast stations to produce local news even without a nearby studio,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a statement (PDF).
However, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel disagreed with the decision. Citing cases during disasters in Minot, North Dakota and Beaumont, Texas, when broadcasters offered preprogrammed content instead of news updates, Rosenworcel in her dissenting statement said requiring broadcasters to maintain a physical presence in communities could lessen the likelihood of those situations.
“I do not believe wiping out the main studio rule is going to solve problems like those in Minot and Beaumont. I do not believe it will lead to better community coverage. I do not believe it will lead to more jobs. I do believe it will hollow out the unique role broadcasters play in local communities—a role that is not just tradition, but an essential part of broadcasting under the Communications Act,” said Rosenworcel in a statement (PDF).