FCC: Broadcasters No Longer Required To Keep A Local Studio Presence

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – In a landmark move that could change the local news landscape, the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday eliminated a 78-year-old rule that requires broadcasters to maintain studios in the areas that they serve.

Created in 1939, the “main studio rule,” required that television, AM and FM stations keep a studio in or near the local communities that receive their broadcasts. It was intended to ensure that broadcasters “are accessible and responsive to their communities.”

In its ruling however, the FCC determined that resources such as social media have rendered the rule “outdated and unnecessarily burdensome.”

The vote was passed on party lines by a 3-2 margin, with two Democrats dissenting, according to Deadline.

“The Commission recognizes that today the public can access information via broadcasters’ online public file, and stations and community members can interact directly through alternative means such as e-mail, social media, and the telephone,” the FCC wrote in a news release.

The FCC argued that eliminating the rule will save broadcasters money that they can instead put towards equipment upgrades and news gathering. It will also allow them to launch stations in more rural areas.

However, the ruling has prompted criticism that it will lead to a homogenization of news content across the nation. As conglomerates such as Sinclair buy up local stations, they will centralize their operations to cut costs. In doing so, they will be unable to meet or understand the needs of the communities they serve without a proper presence, critics argue.

Jessica Rosenworcel, one of the two FCC commissioners who opposed the decision, wrote in her dissent:

“There are many broadcasters who do an extraordinary job serving communities during disaster. But let’s be honest—they can only do so when they have a real presence in their area of license. That’s not a retrograde notion—it’s a fact.”

Meanwhile, the National Association of Broadcasters offered its support for the decision:

“NAB supports elimination of the main studio rule, which has outlived its usefulness in an era of mobile news gathering and multiple content delivery platforms. We’re confident that cost savings realized from ending the main studio rule will be reinvested by broadcasters in better programming and modernized equipment to better serve our local communities. We applaud the FCC for continuing to remove unnecessary and outdated broadcast regulations.”

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