Firm Calls for the End of Main Studio Rule

Garvey Schubert Barer thinks the time for the historic change is now April 19, 2017

WASHINGTON — Do away with the main studio rule entirely. That’s the call from law firm Garvey Schubert Barer, which represents a number of U.S. radio and TV broadcast stations.

The rule has been part of the fabric of U.S. broadcasting for more than half a century, and calls to end it are not new. But GSB apparently senses that the time is right; the firm has filed a formal petition asking the commission to start a rulemaking to do away with the rule.

At present, Rule § 73.1125 requires most AM, FM and TV broadcast stations to maintain a main studio within their community of license; within the principal community contour of any broadcast station licensed to that community; or within 25 miles from the center of its community of license.

“Adoption of this proposal will not reduce or remove broadcasters’ ‘bedrock obligation’ to serve the needs and interests of their local communities,” the firm told the FCC in the petition. Instead, it is meant to recognize the technological and economic realities of today’s broadcast marketplace....”

The petition comes from the law firm’s Media, Telecom and Technology Group. They noted that for more than half a century, the commission has required radio and television stations to maintain a main studio within or near their communities of license. Until 1987, stations also had to originate a certain minimum percentage of non-network programming from the main studio, the “program origination requirement.” The rule has been tweaked since then including in 1998 to enlarge the area within which a broadcast station’s main studio could be located.

The lawyers noted that the main studio rule was long tied to the requirement that stations maintain public inspection files at their studios, but that’s no longer the case now that online public files are required. GSB argues that repeal of the main studio rule would allow broadcasters to “realize efficiencies while maintaining local service obligations.” They call the rule “anachronistic” and say it remains a source of substantial cost for licensees. 

Also, consumers now prefer to communicate with stations by phone, mail and online. 

In short, they believe the rule is “burdensome and inefficient” and no longer serves a valid public interest objective. They say the FCC has eliminated most, if not all, of the other primary justifications for it, and that the license renewal process would continue to invite public input and comment regardless.

Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly has been critical of the rule, hinting as long ago as last September about action on it.

The FCC itself raised the possibility in its 2015 AM revitalization notice, part of which asked general questions about the ongoing purpose of the main studio rules.

A version of this article was originally posted on Radio World; read the full article there.

 

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