Main studio, schmain studio


As part of the FCC’s large-scale look into improving the localism of broadcast stations, it says it shares the concern of commenters "that licensees locate their main studios within the local communities so that they are ‘part of the neighborhood.’"

This goes right along with the age old conceit that broadcast contours are aware of and correspond to political boundaries. It’s made apparent whenever a city of license proposal is before the Commission.

Let’s look at the case of WPGC-AM in the Washington market. Back in the days before FM took over, the station was one of the market’s two Top 40 screamers. But we’d bet that hardly any of the station’s listeners had even the slightest idea where Morningside MD was, its city of license. Basically, the town was little more than a bunch of single-family dwellings outside a secondary entrance to Andrews Air Force Base.

If, for the sake of convenience, or as a nod to the reality that it was a top Washington station, the station’s owners tried to change the COL to Washington, just a handful of miles away, and a move that could be accomplished on paper with no tower move of any kind, it would have been dismissed because it would deprive the community of  Morningside of its only primary broadcast service.

Now Morningside was served exactly as were the residents of other communities in the AAFB area, like Camp Springs and Clinton MD. Neither had a station, nor a complaint. Yet the farce that Morningside needed this "local" service would be operative today, even though it would be almost impossible for most people wanting a gander at its public file to even find the town unless they already happened to live in that part of the metro.

The notion of main studios in the COL is not applicable to the current legal situation, where a legal eight-station cluster may have eight different COLs.

Do you remember back before digital cameras, when somebody had the brilliant idea that there was no reason for drug stores to have the lion’s share of the photo development business? The next thing we knew, little buildings were popping up in parking lots all over the place, ready to take your film and turn it into art overnight. We predict this will be the architectural model of a broadcast "main studio" should such a measure be put on the books. Place the bare minimum software, hardware and staff you can in the smallest space possible and let it go at that. It will still cost broadcasters money, and serve little or no purpose.