Main Studio Rule Proposed for Elimination

Posted on May 30th, 2017 by

That is a correct headline. And the tone of the FCC’s proposed rulemaking released May 18th sounds like elimination is precisely where we’re going to end up.

The issue here is whether the FCC should still mandate that a station have a main studio with two full-time employees during normal business hours from which it can originate programming for broadcast. Some form of this rule has existed since before World War II. But in the FCC’s view, it no longer makes sense, especially in our online world where a station’s public file is, or will soon be, available electronically via an FCC portal. It’s not that main studios will be prohibited. If you still want to have a studio, great. But the agency that regulates you won’t be telling you that you must have one or be fined.

Maybe you rent your studio space and it is costly, without much of an upside. Or maybe you own the studio building, but could sell it and have your administrative offices elsewhere. Perhaps having a single employee at the station works best for you at some points during the week. Or maybe Friday afternoons are slow and it is not necessary to have anyone there. Or how about having to maintain two different studios with at least two employees at each because one of your stations is just outside of a 25-mile radius from its community of license? Arrggh!

We don’t mean to trivialize the issue, but mandating a brick and mortar main studio seems a bit clunky in the internet age, no?   To be sure, the FCC’s NPRM leaves open a tiny crack by inviting alternatives to complete elimination, such as still requiring larger stations to have a main studio. But it sure gets short shrift, suggesting that the FCC can’t really see hanging on to a rule that seems like it belongs on display in a museum.

There isn’t a comment deadline for this proceeding yet, but it should be announced soon. The more stations that support elimination of the rule, the more likely it is that the rule will die.