Broadcasters, and particularly minority broadcasters, need every break they can get right now, making it more important than ever for the FCC to sweep away antiquated technical rules that make it hard for marginal stations to reach their audiences.
Setting the scene in an FCC filing, MMTC stated, “The broadcasting industry, as a whole, is suffering an economic paralysis, leaving minority broadcasters grasping for life support. The current financial crisis has all but destroyed the broadcasting industry’s equity value, while competition from new technologies and the Internet challenge radio broadcasters’ economic stability. Recent reports indicate that the radio industry will continue to struggle as many of the country’s largest national broadcasters remain on the verge of bankruptcy.”
It then argued that the rules need to be updated to allow minority broadcasters access to the population centers where the audience they intend to serve is located, saying “The economic problems in the radio industry are compounded by the fact that certain archaic broadcast engineering rules operate as market entry barriers, effectively stifling diversity and impeding competition.10 These rules are even more detrimental to minority broadcasters, who typically own stations with inferior technical parameters and have a difficult time reaching their intended audience because the stations are located far from the centers of the urban markets they generally serve.11 The additional expense of broadcasting a signal from these remote locations and costly burden of complying with outdated technical rules create an even greater challenge for minority broadcasters to survive.”
It further argued that in taking action to ease technical rules, the FCC would be following the expressed will of Congress. “The revision and deletion of obsolete and ineffective engineering rules is important not only because the radio industry is ready for these rules to change, but also because Congress expects it. Many of the Commission’s radio rules conflict with the directive from Congress to eliminate market entry barriers for small businesses and entrepreneurs for the purpose of promoting ‘…diversity of media voices, vigorous economic competition, technological advancement, and promotion of the public interest, convenience, and necessity.’ Congress has also stated its policy favoring deregulation by directing the Commission to repeal or modify structural ownership regulations that are ‘no longer necessary in the public interest.’”
RBR-TVBR observation: It’s not only about deleting archaic rules – it’s about avoiding the imposition of new rules in the name of promoting localism. The proposed studio in the city of license rule, to cite one example, would ignore market reality while imposing an extremely financial heavy burden on broadcasters already stretched to the breaking point.