FCC Decides Local TV News Stations Don't Need Offices In Local Communities

Do you have a specific local market TV or radio studio to report your local TV news? You don’t need it anymore. But no worries. Media owners won’t necessarily be closing up shop anytime soon. The future is another matter.

Last week, the FCC voted to eliminate its “main studio rule,” which says local news stations must maintain offices within the communities they serve.

For any major TV station group looking to save a few bucks, this is good news. But is this likely? Local TV news viewers are loyal to their local TV anchors and reporters. So don’t look for big TV station groups to replace on-air personnel with little-known talent sitting in a studio far away.

That said, for still-growing TV stations groups like Sinclair Broadcast Group -- the largest U.S. TV station group -- it's a favorable decision.



For a while now, Sinclair has been mandating that its station news directors run specific nationally themed commentary segments -- so-called “must run” video pieces. Former Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn was added to Sinclair’s commentary content providers earlier this year.

More of this required content is on the way -- especially as TV stations look to save costs. Sinclair is in the process of swallowing the big Tribune Media group of stations, a $3.9 billion deal yet to be approved by the FCC.

The FCC’s “main studio rule” began in 1940 to ensure that TV and radio broadcasters address local audiences' needs.

All this may seem highly intuitive on the part of the FCC, foreseeing big national media networks -- TV, social media and otherwise offering a more national, less local, focus on news. But at the time, it was intended to stop anti-competitive and monopolistic tendencies.

Will TV stations groups look to centralized news content? Not that quickly. It would dilute whatever local brand appeal and long-term news engagement exists among local TV viewers.

And what about TV advertisers? Big national brand TV advertisers may not have an issue here -- as long as viewership wasn’t drastically declining. But smaller, more specific local market advertisers -- furniture stores, specialty retailers -- would have a more difficult time.

Proponents of the elimination -- like the National Association of Broadcasters -- believe the main studio rules have “outlived its usefulness,” given growing mobile news gathering and “multiple content delivery platforms.”

So one major broadcast regulation is gone. What comes next?

4 comments about "FCC Decides Local TV News Stations Don't Need Offices In Local Communities".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, November 2, 2017 at 1:11 p.m.

    I am reminded of my days 45 years ago as a radio announcer in west central Ohio. Instead of a local weather expert, my AM/FM station contracted with a Cleveland company that served many Ohio markets. The guy would call me with his forecast but first I needed to go look at the sky from the fire escape door to verify the conditions, so he would not look silly reporting from 160 miles away. It worked pretty well then and all we had were phones.

  2. Christina Ricucci from Millenia 3 Communications replied, November 2, 2017 at 7:19 p.m.

    You made me smile, Douglas. I was in my teens when I started working as a secretary for an FCC attorney in the mid-60s, then jumped into news radio 9 or10 years later. It was so interesting, seeing broadcasting from both the legal side and in the trenches, where I did just about everything there was to do in radio in those days except sell.  Wayne says "one major broadcast regulation is gone" but there are a few of us still working who remember other now defunct regs like the Fairness Doctrine, community ascertainment, program logs, and broadcasting in the public interest. Remember when you needed an FCC radiotelephone operator’s license to get anywhere near a microphone? Wow, am I old.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, November 2, 2017 at 8:47 p.m.

    How Putinesque !

  4. Michael Margolies from Michael Margolies Photography & Design, November 3, 2017 at 12:36 p.m.

    I have no faith in either the FCC or station owners to maintain local integrity and they will suffer for it. The temptation to save short term dollars for long term viewer loyalty will be too great. it will further isolate people from local business, government, and social activities. This will lend to more echo chamber as everyone everywhere will only hear the prescribed version of events as reported from the main office. A local perspective and attitudes will be wiped away leaving only the sanitized politically correct views of the far off offices. We see this everyday in network news and look how devastated its viewership has become has it has moved away from a connection with regular folks and replaced news with editorial content provided by aggregated sources often owned by political activist groups.

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