On Nov. 25, 2019, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on whether it should modify or eliminate section 73.3556 of the Commission’s rules — a.k.a. the “radio duplication rule.”
A summary of the NPRM was published in the Federal Register on Monday, December 23, setting the wheels in motion on a comment date and reply comment date for what is officially MB Docket Nos. 19-310 and 17-105.
With the publication in the Federal Register, comments will be due on or before January 22, and reply comments on or before February 6.
Commenters should follow the filing instructions provided in the NPRM.
As RBR+TVBR reported Nov. 22, the rule presently limits AM or FM stations from airing more than 25% of total hours in an average broadcast week of duplicative programming.
In an age where HD Radio may be AM’s lone saving grace in the face of technological advancement, rule modernization is being championed by such Republican Commissioners as Brendan Carr.
The Commission adopted the radio duplication rule in 1992. It applies to commercial stations in the same service (AM or FM) with “substantial contour overlap” that are commonly owned or subject to a time brokerage agreement.
Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel expressed mild reservations over the proposed rule change during the FCC’s November Open Meeting.
“I hope that any changes we make do not leave listeners will fewer voices,” she said while concurring.
The NPRM asks whether the rule remains necessary to promote competition and programming diversity. Or, should broadcasters be granted “additional programming freedom?” Additionally, “because radio broadcast spectrum is fully utilized and demand for spectrum continues to grow, the NPRM asks whether the rule remains necessary to promote spectrum efficiency,” the GOP-driven FCC believes.
Democrat Geoffrey Starks also concurred on the NPRM but specifically wonders whether allowing radio station owners to broadcast duplicative content is the most efficient use of spectrum – particularly at a time when women and people of color remain largely absent from radio ownership.
“I am deeply interested in learning more about whether these rule changes would have any special impact on women or people of color who currently own stations or hope to enter the industry,” he said.
Starks added that he successfully proposed edits to help the Commission learn more about whether these rule changes would have any special impact on women or people of color who currently own stations or hope to enter this industry, and whether spectrum would be used more efficiently by radio operators airing duplicative content or by other parties in service to our competition and diversity goals.