FCC Eliminates Main Studio Requirement

Posted on October 31st, 2017 by

In a 3-2 vote at its October 24, 2017 meeting, the FCC voted to eliminate the main studio requirement for all broadcast stations. The change will become effective 30 days after publication of the order in the Federal Register. Our estimate is that the FCC will move pretty quickly to publication and, as a result, the main studio requirement will officially come off of the books sometime in December 2017.

If you have a main studio and want to keep it, that’s fine – it’s just that the FCC isn’t mandating that you have one any longer. If you have multiple stations, and are now required to have multiple main studios to be compliant with the rule, you’ll be able to consolidate those or eliminate them altogether. And if you had a main studio waiver for a station, the waiver will become moot, since you no longer need to have a main studio in the first place.

There are a few caveats. First, you must maintain a toll-free telephone number in the community of license so that the public can reach you without incurring a long-distance charge. This is a requirement that is in the current rule and will remain. Second, for radio stations that have not yet transitioned to the online public file (your deadline is March 1, 2018 by the way), you can still close your main studio now but until you’ve migrated all materials to the FCC’s online public file portal and gone live with it, you’ll have to keep a paper copy of the public file at a publicly accessible place in your community of license. Third, if you eliminate your main studio, you must still use your community of license for determining the issues affecting your community to address in your programming, all as part of your continuing obligation to prepare quarterly issues/programs reports addressing the station’s most significant treatment of issues in the station’s community of license.

Along with the elimination of the brick and mortar studio requirement (first adopted in 1939), the requirement to be able to originate programming from your main studio will also end when the elimination of the main studio requirement becomes effective. And the FCC’s policy of requiring a “meaningful presence” of two full-time employees at the station studio during normal business hours will also end when the rule change becomes effective. Of course, station licensees must still be able to maintain full control over personnel, programming and finances, but the antiquated requirement to do so via the physical presence of two full-timers will no longer burden broadcasters.