UPDATED with vote results, other proposals: The FCC has voted today to eliminate the so-called “Main Studio Rule,” which requires local TV and radio broadcasters to maintain studios in the communities where they are licensed. (Often, that means the place where their physical antenna is located.)
Doing away with the rule, which was established in 1940, benefits the largest broadcasters, especially Sinclair, which is set to swallow Tribune Media to become even more of a behemoth. The commissioners voted 3-2 along party lines to eliminate the rule.
Critics of eliminating the Main Studio Rule say it will accelerate the already destructive tendencies toward consolidation. Corporate giants like Sinclair, the No. 1 station owner with more than 200 stations across the country, have centralized many facets of their news operations, which can deprive some smaller markets of boots-on-the-ground local reporting.
Skeptics of the current laissez-faire tilt of the FCC under Republican chairman Ajit Pai, who has been assailed for being too friendly to corporate interests and for undermining net neutrality and other Obama-era policies, see this vote as fitting into that pattern.
“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,” it said. “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 We applaud the FCC for continuing to remove unnecessary and outdated broadcast regulations.”
Also during today’s open commission meeting, the commission issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks to update two rules: one, eliminating the need for TV broadcasters to file annual reports about so-called ancillary or supplementary services unless its from broadcasters that earn revenue from the provision; and two, one that would allow broadcasters to notify the public of broadcast license applications through the Internet, rather than through newspapers and over-the-air announcements as required under the FCC’s existing rules
It alternatively seeks comment on whether its broadcast application public notice rule should be eliminated altogether.
At the FCC’s meeting, the commission was also set to discuss the deployment of additional resources to help storm-ravaged Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.