• Get involved.
    We want your input!
    Apply for Membership and join the conversations about everything related to broadcasting.

    After we receive your registration, a moderator will review it. After your registration is approved, you will be permitted to post.
    If you use a disposable or false email address, your registration will be rejected.

    After your membership is approved, please take a minute to tell us a little bit about yourself.
    https://www.radiodiscussions.com/forums/introduce-yourself.1088/

    Thanks in advance and have fun!
    RadioDiscussions Administrators

FCC Incentive for Local Programming

I just saw the story of this new rule on RadioInk, and their interpretation of it is that it is attempting to reverse the 2017 decision eliminating the Main Studio Rule.

Rosenworcel is pretty much wishing to reverse the vast majority of Ajit Pai's actions as chairman and this is clearly one of them.
My view is that the only stations I know of that operate with no local studios and are basically satellite repeaters are owned by EMF, VCY, and other religious broadcasters. Perhaps the FCC is targeting religious broadcasters. There are some commercial operators that run a lot of syndication. But even they have local sales offices and create local commercials.
I'll throw this example: a small AM station in my neck of the woods, which had local newscasts and programming of some sort since they signed on in 1948, dumped it all at the start of this year. Now it's a lineup of marginal talk programming and Fox Sports Radio, with a decent enough diet of high school sports. Their sister stations in an adjacent city (two full-power class A FMs and a high-band class D AM with a translator) still have live-assist personalities and local news. Clearly the first station in question is suffering from being on AM, and aside from local sports coverage, they don't have much of any local advertising, just a lot of PSAs and station promos.

I don't know how being induced to carry local news helps anything when a station clearly can't afford to do it. If anything, they might just bite the bullet and wait as long as it takes to have the license renewed.
 
I don't know how being induced to carry local news helps anything when a station clearly can't afford to do it. If anything, they might just bite the bullet and wait as long as it takes to have the license renewed.
We will also have to see what happens with the Chevron Doctrine, which is currently up for grabs at a Supreme Court that appears poised to trash all sorts of precedents.
 
We will also have to see what happens with the Chevron Doctrine, which is currently up for grabs at a Supreme Court that appears poised to trash all sorts of precedents.
At least one state is openly ignoring a SCOTUS ruling as we speak, so who even knows at this point. But I digress... not even remotely comfortable going there tbh.
 
I don't know how being induced to carry local news helps anything when a station clearly can't afford to do it. If anything, they might just bite the bullet and wait as long as it takes to have the license renewed.
And, on top of that, there are decades and decades of research showing that music listeners don't want news and information outside of, maybe, morning drive.

But the FCC has a long history of telling stations to do things that their listeners don't want.
 
And, on top of that, there are decades and decades of research showing that music listeners don't want news and information outside of, maybe, morning drive.

But the FCC has a long history of telling stations to do things that their listeners don't want.
Much of that flows downhill from the organization who holds the purse strings, Congress.
 
But the FCC has a long history of telling stations to do things that their listeners don't want.

This particular proposal isn't about adding news and information to music stations. It's about having three hours of local programming per week. I would say a majority of stations are doing that. The fact that the FCC is making this proposal shows how little they know about local station programming. That's their fault. They chose to get out of that business 40 years ago. Now they make a proposal saying quick license renewals are an incentive. Doing one's job should not be held as an incentive. They should just do their job. If they did, they'd see that the licensees that provide the least amount of local programming are religious groups such as VCY and EMF. Are they willing to fight EMF over this issue? We will see. The only threat to stations that don't provide 3 hours of local programming is their renewal will be delayed. Not much of a threat.

The other question your post brings up is do listeners want local programming? Let's ask Mike McVay:


One can drive across America and hear no air talent 7:00pm-6:00am. No talent of any kind. Not a local personality, not a voice-tracked talent, no syndication, and not even a personality created by Artificial Intelligence. There’s no connectivity to a market, let alone to a listener. A lot of commercials, some music, a jingle and/or an imaging voice announcing a station positioning statement, produced promotional messages, and more commercials.

However, in most cases, unhosted programming could still be local, and would qualify for this FCC incentive.
 
REC Position Statement: MB Dkt 24-14: Priority Application Review for Broadcast Stations that Provide Local Journalism or Other Locally Originated Programming (originally published at REC on January 29, 2024)

On January 10 and released on January 17, 2024, the Commission adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in MB Docket 24-14 that is titled “Priority Application Review for Broadcast Stations that Provide Local Journalism or Other Locally Originated Programming”.

When I was in DC late last year, Chair Rosenworcel did mention in a meeting that I had with her as an exparte on the Application for Review on the FM Duplication Rule decision, that she was looking at a rulemaking that would reward broadcasters who air local programming or have local journalism. She did not expand on that at the time. Well, this is what she apparently had in mind.

Specifically, what the proposal is would be a change in process, where those broadcasters who provide a certain level of local programming (duration and definition of the area that is considered "local” to be determined) would be given “priority evaluation” on renewal, transfer and assignment of license applications over those applicants that do not have local programming. This is not proposed to make any changes to minor modifications or other regular applications.

While we applaud the Chairwoman for taking local programming seriously, we cannot see how this proposal will make for an expedited experience unless it means extending the handling time on non-local programming applicants.

Currently there are statutes in the Communications Act that does not allow the FCC to take any action on an application, other than a minor modification and other administrative application types less than 30 days after the application is published to public notice. In addition, the Act does not permit a renewal to be granted more than 30 days prior to the license expiration date.

Based on our own experiences in the Audio Division, a “clean” assignment application that is fairly simple, does not require a massive review, is not controversial and does not have any informal objections or petitions to deny currently take about 45 to 60 days to process. A “clean” renewal is normally granted about 2 weeks prior to the license expiration date. This does not leave much room for any kind of improvement to the existing policy. In the case of renewals, most of the clean renewals are granted on the same day anyway. Also, even if a renewal has not had any action on it at the time the license expires, the station is still authorized to broadcast as long as they filed their renewal application before the expiration date. If there is even one informal objection, all bets for “priority” handling are out the door.

For renewal applications, we do not feel that it gives applicants any real value as they would be authorized to broadcast anyway. Perhaps going in the other direction and shaving a month off of the filing deadline (3 months instead of 4) for local programming certified applicants. This can be done by eliminating a “grace period” which exists in the Audio Division where renewal applications that are late, but less than 30 days late will not receive any enforcement action. Perhaps, for nonlocal programming applicants start enforcing the $3,000 or $1,500 forfeiture on day 31. Or perhaps, for local programming applicants extend the deadline to 3 months instead of 4 months prior and maintain the grace period.

For assignment applicants, we do not see any value to this because while the current licensee (assignor) may have a track record of local programming, they are selling the station to another entity which either has no track record of local programming or they may have such a record on other commonly owned stations that may not be as favorable to this. Again, we can’t predict what the new owner is going to do.

Those entities that do not provide local programming may tout this proposal as “penalizing” them for not running local programming if the intervals turn out to be status quo for those with certifiable local programming and a delayed response for others. In addition, if an owner who is looking to sell their station, they can state that they are eligible to get the expedited handling, thus allowing them to demand a premium for the sale of the station. This practice would further shut out diverse groups and new entrants seeking to purchase stations.

We see the proposal, even though commendable, as impractical from a statutory perspective. It can be easily viewed as “punishing” some broadcasters who choose not to provide local programming, will create a long running debate on what is local from a full-service perspective, does nothing for FM translators and could have the unexpected consequence of shutting out some minorities and new entrants.

Instead, we would rather see the FCC focus on initiatives that would increase localism, such as LP-250 (RM-11909), translator reform (RM-11952) in order to help assure that there will be future LPFM opportunities and opening new opportunities for lower powered noncommercial educational stations in underserved rural areas by eliminating some archaic technical limitations (RM-11846). The Commission should be looking at a long-term plan to repurpose TV Channel 5 and 6 (WIDE-FM) in order to help foster new local broadcasters in virgin spectrum.

REC will not oppose this rulemaking but we don’t feel that it will add any real value or incentive. We need to focus on initiatives that will encourage not just local programming, but local ownership, local accountability and local availability, especially for new entrants
 
While we applaud the Chairwoman for taking local programming seriously, we cannot see how this proposal will make for an expedited experience unless it means extending the handling time on non-local programming applicants.

Exactly. Consider the recent bankruptcy sale of stations owned by Royce last year. No local news or journalism at any of those stations. Yet the transfer was handled expeditiously. On the other hand, we know of hundreds of stations (maybe even thousands) that provide the 3 hours of local programming per week. How does the FCC propose prioritizing all of those applications? They seem to be of the opinion that local programming is a rare thing in radio. It's not. This proposal only perpetuates a negative and false stereotype about radio. It offers no meaningful or useful incentive to the licensees. Meanwhile it does nothing to the worst offender of centralized, non-local programming: EMF.
 
This new plan is being discussed by broadcasters, including EMF:


As expected, EMF is opposed to it, since they do no local programming:

Educational Media Foundation says the FCC proposal will do little to achieve the stated goal, and it instead risks bogging the Commission down making judgements about the value of programming offered by different broadcasters. “The proposed policy risks running headlong into a First Amendment minefield,” it says, adding, “This concern is doubly acute considering the religious content of programming provided by broadcasters like EMF.”

When they talk about the first amendment, it's not the speech part. It's the religion part.
 
NPR wrote to the FCC about further incentives it could offer to improve localism:


Among the ideas: Cut back on the amount of paperwork required.

“The primary need for public radio stations is more funding. Absent additional funding, the Commission could help public radio stations stretch their resources further by reducing reporting requirements when appropriate.”
 
At this point, if I had to summarize what I think of the FCC proposal, I'd probably describe it as the regulatory equivalent of pushing on a piece of string. While the intention may be good, I don't expect it to actually achieve anything.

Unfortunately, that's how most of the regulatory (or deregulatory) pushes for radio look to me right now. Broadcasters are pushing for further relaxation of ownership limits to "save" radio -- but it won't, because more stations in the hands of companies that are doing worse and worse is going to do nothing to boost the radio business. If anything, it might accelerate the decline by sucking even more of the life out of the business. So does that mean that tightening ownership rules might help? Maybe twenty years ago it would have, but today I suspect it would just end up with more stations getting sold off to the Christian radio satellite chains.
 


Back
Top Bottom