FCC Main Studio Elimination Not Yet Effective

Posted on November 30th, 2017 by

Although the FCC voted to eliminate the main studio requirement for all broadcast stations at its October 24, 2017 meeting, we’re still waiting for the decision to become effective, which won’t happen until 30 days after publication of the decision in the Federal Register.

If that statement wrinkled your brow a little, you’re not alone. It seems like a pretty straightforward administrative task to get the adopted order over to the Office of Management and Budget, and then for the OMB to publish it in the Federal Register. But here we are, more than 30 days later, and a search of the Federal Register for the order’s publication comes up empty. Maybe November got in the way. We’re not sure. But keep your eyes and ears open. Publication is coming.

Remember – just because the main studio requirement is going away doesn’t mean that it is unlawful for you to have one. 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.

Don’t forget to maintain a toll-free telephone number in the community of license so that the public can reach you without incurring a long-distance charge. Plus, even without a 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.