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Impending death of the FCC’s Main Studio rule?

In just under five months, the FCC under Chairman Ajit Pai has acted quickly to do away with one long-standing broadcast compliance rule and has initiated the process to eliminate another.

In his first FCC meeting leading the Commission, Pai and other commissioners voted to eliminate the requirement for a physical station Public File folder for emails and letters from the public.

The rule change means that there will no longer be a physical public file at a station – only an online file on the FCC website.

Attorney Gregg Skall with TAB Associate Member law firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, reminds stations not to throw away the file just yet.

“First, the order is not yet effective,” Skall said. 

“It will become effective only after it is published in the Federal Register and the Commission has issued a notice announcing OMB approval and the date the order becomes effective.” 

And that has not happened yet.

Now comes word that the FCC is proposing to do away with the main studio rule – the requirement that stations maintain a main studio at or near the station community of license.

“Chairman Pai is serious about his deregulatory agenda for the FCC,” said David Oxenford, an attorney with TAB Associate Member law firm Wilkinson Barker and Knauer.

But not all FCC commissioners are onboard with the latest idea.

Oxenford notes that Commissioner Clyburn, the FCC’s lone Democrat, dissented from the adoption of the Public Notice launching the inquiry, “not necessarily because she is opposed to review of existing rules, but because she felt that the notice presupposes that the public interest can only be achieved by abolishing rules that limit industry operations.”

Dan Kirkpatrick and Keenan Adamchak, attorneys with TAB Associate Member law firm Fletcher Heald and Hildreth, say the FCC proposed the repeal of the rule on the grounds that “the ubiquity of electronic communications eliminated the necessity of a studio’s physical presence to ensure adequate communication and cooperation between a broadcaster and the community it represents.”

By issuing the NPRM, the FCC also set up the potential elimination of several long-standing regulations that are directly tied to the main studio rule such as requirements for a management and staff presence onsite.

You can read more analysis by Kirkpatrick and Adamchak, as well as from Oxenford, on this latest FCC proposal  here and here.

Comments and reply comments will be due after the NPRM is published in the Federal Register which has not yet occurred.

TAB will keep stations abreast of developments on this proposed major rule change as they occur.

Questions?  Contact TAB's Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.

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