FCC looks to quash main studio rule for broadcasters

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The original rule was established in 1939 to ensure that communities had proper access to local broadcasters and public inspection files.

The FCC is moving ahead with plans to eliminate the main studio rule that requires AM, FM and television broadcasters to maintain a central studio in or near their communities of license.

The FCC issued a report and order this week that would eliminate the rule and requirements including full-time staff and program origination capability associated with the rule. The R&O would, however, require broadcasters to maintain a local or toll-free telephone number so community members can contact stations, and it would still require stations to maintain any portion of the public file that is not part of the online public file.

The proposed update to the rule comes after the original rule was established in 1939 to ensure that communities had proper access to local broadcasters and public inspection files. But the FCC argues that since public inspection files are moving to an electronic system due to be complete by March 2018, the old rules are no longer needed.

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Further, the FCC contends that the “significant costs” associated with maintaining a main studio and adhering to all requirements could be redirected toward programming, equipment upgrades, newsgathering, and other services.

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The official move forward with removing the main studio rule comes after FCC Chairman Ajit Pai—who was just reconfirmed for another four years—promised the crowd at the NAB Show in Las Vegas that he would do away with outdated rules.

“The last thing broadcast needs are outdated rules standing in their way,” Pai said. “We want to make sure the rules match the reality of 2017, not 1987.”