Main Studio and Paper Rules on the Chopping Block, AM Revitalization on the Way

It’s shaping up to be a busy few months for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. And did you know September is Modernization Month? Well, at least according to Chairman Pai it is.

Photo by Lance Cheung and used under the Creative Commons License

Today, the Chairman announced a new initiative to curtail, or modify, many existing rules. Speaking at a luncheon at the annual National Broadcasters Radio Show, Pai said the decision is part of the FCC’s recent mission to, as the Chairman said, “modernize our rules to match the realities of today’s marketplace.” Thus, each month starting in September, Chairman Pai will present to his fellow FCC Commissioners at least one Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which addresses concerns that he has assessed are part of those ‘outdated or unnecessary media regulations that should be eliminated or modified.’

This means that it’s about to get a lot busier at the FCC, as set forth in the tentative agenda for the Commission’s September meeting.

One such cumbersome rule the Chairman proposes to repeal is the elimination of the main studio rule the requirement that each AM, FM, and television broadcast station needs to maintain a studio that is located in or near its community license. However, as Pai argued on Thursday, “… the reality is that local access to a physical station is simply no longer necessary to satisfy those public interest goals. Broadcasters’ public inspection files are either currently available or will soon be available online.” (Since we converted our Memo to Clients publication from paper to digital a few years back, we can only ask “what took you so long”.)

Chairman Pai also championed the need for the FCC to move towards the digital age by literally getting rid of physical copies of its rules. The FCC guidelines require broadcasters and cable operators to maintain physical paper copies of the FCC rules. With FCC rules available online, the Chairman has proposed eliminating “this outdated requirement.”

The Commission will also vote on an Order to update the signal quality and signal leakage regulations for cable, and vote on an AM revitalization Order, to relax or eliminate certain rules pertaining to AM broadcasters employing and maintaining directional antenna arrays.

With all of this and more on the FCC’s plate, keep an eye on the blog for more analysis on what you need to know (there will be no paper-based updates).