WASHINGTON, D.C.—In today’s era of telecom deregulation, will the day ever come where the FCC’s so-called main studio rule—requiring most radio and TV stations to have a working, main studio in or near the city of their license—ever be repealed?
Perhaps to the surprise of many, Womble Carlyle Telecom attorney John Garziglia says that day might be coming.
“My prediction is that the FCC will do away with the main studio rule. It is an easy target for regulation elimination, and there is absolutely no public constituency for it (unlike net neutrality and privacy that does have a constituency of millions to whom the chairman is about to be introduced),” Garziglia told Radio World in a recent interview.
Earlier this month, the law firm Garvey Schubert Barer, which represents several broadcasters, petitioned the FCC to do away with the rule. The petition says repealing the main studio rule “is meant to recognize the technological and economic realities of today’s broadcast marketplace — that stations can serve their communities while realizing substantial and necessary cost savings by maintaining fewer offices and smaller staff; that most listeners and viewers contact their local stations by telephone, mail, email or online; and that the commission has already eliminated the underlying program origination requirement and, more recently, has provided that licensees must make their public file available entirely online, thereby further undermining any rationale for maintaining a physical main studio location.”
Garziglia said the main argument for the main studio rule is idea that radio and TV stations are connected to the community they serve. Requiring stations to maintain a physical presence in these markets is one way of fostering that bond.
But he also said he doesn’t seem a groundswell of organized support for keeping the rule in place. On the other hand, broadcasters, who do have an organized lobby, will be glad to do away with the main studio rule.
“It is not just keeping the physical facility — the rule through case law requires two full-time licensee employees, which stations operating under time brokerage agreements have never procedurally figured out,” Garziglia tells Radio World. “These two full-time licensee employees are there for exactly what in a time brokerage arrangement — to be sure the transmitter does not spring legs and walk away?”
As a result, Garziglia said eliminating the rule may actually benefit local service, because it may allow struggling radio stations to stay on the air.
In addition, the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Counsel recently filed comments with the FCC saying the main studio rule serves as a stumbling block for minorities to enter broadcasting ownership.