FCC Comment Deadlines Set for Main Studio Rule Proposal

The FCC's comment deadlines are set for its proposal to eliminate the main studio rule after the proposal was published in the Federal Register June 2.

Comments are due July 3, with reply comments due July 17 per the FCC's decision to set those at 30 and 45 days, respectively, after that publication.

The FCC voted May 18 to propose dropping the requirement, which for almost eight decades has required a TV or radio station to maintain a main studio in its community of license.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai said the rule was outdated because in the digital age the community has access and can engage with stations via social media or email without having a physical studio nearby.

Related: Noncoms Applaud Main Studio Rule Deregulation

He also said maintaining a physical address is an expense better put to other uses, like adding more local programming.

The vote was on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which means the public can comment before a final vote is taken on a report and order.

Broadcast attorneys had petitioned the FCC to eliminate the rule.

The FCC initially adopted the in-market requirement to make sure viewers had easy access to their local station and its management. But the commission loosened the rule in 1987 during its Reagan-era broad deregulation of the industry, eliminating a related requirement that a station originated a minimum number of programming hours from such a studio and further loosened it in 1998, allowing stations still more facilities flexibility.

While the May 18 vote was unanimous, Democratic commissioner Mignon Clyburn has reservations. "By tentatively proposing to eliminate the Commission’s main studio rule, it seems to me that we are embracing a world in which automated national programming is the new normal," she said following the vote. "When the community wants to know what is going on in their backyard, my question is, will simulcasting fill the gap," she said.

"And if elimination of the main studio rule is what gives that small market station with just five employees, the chance to keep the lights on and continue producing local programming, then I am empathetic. But we need to think long and hard about the practical implications of eliminating this rule altogether."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.