Continuing its progression of reversals, the FCC announced on June 5, 2024 that it would once again reinstate section 73.3556 of the Commission’s rules (the “Radio Duplication Rule” or “Rule”) for commercial FM stations.  The Radio Duplication Rule does not apply to noncommercial educational stations nor AM stations. 

As some of our readers might recall, the FCC first limited the duplication of programming by commonly-owned radio stations serving the same local area in 1964.  Since then, the FCC has alternatively tightened, loosened, or done away with the Rule in its entirety.  Most recently, the FCC completely eliminated the Rule in August of 2020, with support from the National Association of Broadcasters.  Still, this repeal was appealed by REC Networks, the musicFIRST Coalition, and the Future of Music Coalition, who filed a Petition for Reconsideration, from which this month’s Order on Reconsideration reinstituting the Rule stems. 

Beginning thirty days after publication in the Federal Register, the Radio Duplication Rule will once more prohibit commercial FM stations from devoting more than 25 percent of the total hours in their average broadcast week to programs that duplicate those of any other commonly-owned FM station; or with which it has a time brokerage agreement if the principal community contours (defined as predicted 3.16 mV/m) of the stations overlap and the overlap constitutes more than 50 percent of the total principal community contour service area of either station.  Stations that exceed this limit may file a waiver request to exceed the 25% duplication allowance based on special circumstances, so long as such deviation serves the public interest. 

To minimize possible service disruptions and burdens for FM stations, and to provide them with an ample runway back to compliance with the reinstated Rule, the Order provides a six-month grace period after the Rule’s effective date to allow the stations to come into compliance.  The six-month grace period will begin when the reinstated rule becomes effective.  Consistent with this grace period, the FCC strongly encourages any FM station that currently exceeds the duplication allowance, and that intends to seek a waiver, to submit its waiver request within the first ninety days after the new rule becomes effective.  Such stations will be permitted to continue to transmit their programming in excess of the 25% duplication allowance unless and until the waiver request is denied. 

If you have any questions or would like assistance with bringing your affected FM station back into compliance, please contact your FHH attorney.