FCC Chairman Ajit Pai formally unveiled two proposals on Thursday to remove outdated broadcast regulations. First, the Commission released a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would eliminate the main studio rule for all services (including the associated minimum staffing requirements). Second, the Commission released a draft Public Notice seeking comment on media-related rules to modify or repeal. Both items are on the agenda for the FCC’s May 18 open meeting (where they will share the dais with Chairman Pai’s proposal to remove Title II regulation of broadband Internet access service).
Under the main studio rule, AM, FM, and television broadcast stations must maintain a main studio in their community of license, within the station’s principal community contour, or within 25 miles from the reference coordinates of the center of its community of license. Traditionally, the main studio served as the hub for the station’s records and its contact with the community. The draft Notice of Propose Rulemaking would conclude that “technological innovations have rendered a local studio unnecessary as a means for viewers and listeners to communicate with or access their local stations and to carry out the other traditional functions that they have served.” Accordingly, the draft NPRM seeks to establish a record regarding the usefulness of the main studio and proposes to eliminate the requirement to maintain a main studio with production and transmission facilities and the associated staffing requirements. The draft NPRM would propose requiring broadcasters to maintain a local telephone number and asks how else stations should provide access to their local public inspection files—particularly for AM and FM stations that have not yet transitioned to online public files.
The “Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative” Public Notice, meanwhile, seeks to “to eliminate or modify regulations that are outdated, unnecessary or unduly burdensome.” The draft Public Notice would ask commenters to “identify with specificity the rule or rules that the commenting party believes should be modified or repealed, and explain why and how the rule or rules should be modified or repealed.” The Commission would also ask if there are any rules from which small businesses, in particular, should receive regulatory relief.
If adopted, comments in response to the NPRM will be due 30 days from publication in the Federal Register while comments in response to the Public Notice will be due within 30 days of release.