If you’re an AM owner facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs related to maintaining a second main studio location each year, wouldn’t you want to save that money?
Several do, and they’ve asked the FCC for relief.
In its AM revitalization Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC said it’s reluctant to eliminate the main studio requirements entirely, (because that’s the stick to ensure stations comply with local service obligations). But the agency asked whether it should continue to consider waivers on a case-by-case basis or relax that for commercial stations.
Green-Bay, Wisconsin-based Starboard Media Foundation, which operates as Relevant Radio, owns 16 full-time stations — 13 are AMs. It’s a non-profit that operates commercial stations airing non-com Catholic programming and depends on listener donations to pay its operating expenses.
Starboard is urging the commission to allow a licensee with multiple stations in Nielsen Metro to co-locate all those stations in one location.
Starboard attorney Mark Denbo of Smithwick & Belendiuk tells RBR+TVBR in an interview what’s driving this is “In some years, they’ve spent a lot of money running a second main studio” in the Chicago location, for example, where the broadcast owner has two studios in one location and one in a third.
Office expenses such as salaries, insurance, rent, utilities and equipment add up. “In some years, they’ve spent up to $150,000 on that extra main studio,” says Denbo.
Supporters of main studio relaxation like Starboard note that non-com licensee of NCE stations frequently receive waivers of the main studio rule to re-locate studios thousands of miles from their transmitter location and save money. Starboard believes at the least, all AM owners with more than one station in a market should be able to operate just one main studio for the entire cluster.
Mike Beverly, owner of three Tennessee AMs, agrees, telling the commission “the requirement to have a main studio fully staffed is a huge financial burden.”