End of local radio for many

According to Tom Taylor’s newsletter, newly reconfirmed FCC chairman Ajit Pai is planning to end the Main Studio rule on October 24th.

The rule required that every commercial and TV radio station have a physical presence inside or near the community of license that is staffed during business hours and has the ability to originate local programming. (Non-commercial stations can request and almost always receive waivers)

FCC explanation

Unless a station has a robust local advertising market, look for the remaining local programming from generally 6-10 AM (local drive time) to vanish and be replaced with syndication (ie Rick & Bubba, Bob & Sheri, Fox Sports).

Transmitters have long had the capability to run autonomously without any studio, needing only a satellite feed and/or internet connection, using software to drop in station IDs and local weather and traffic reports provided from third parties nowhere near the station.

Even if a station does maintain a local presence, the demise of other local programming in their market may damage them. People will drift away from radio. A survey published in the past day or two noted that for the vast majority of people under 30, the only radio they own is in their car (if they even bother owning one). Selling clock radios is not a growth business opportunity.

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