The FCC last week issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking aimed to give incentives to broadcasters to air more local journalism and local programming by prioritizing the processing of certain applications by stations that feature local programming. That decision drew dissents from both of the FCC’s Republican Commissioners, not because of the proposal for the preference, but because they were concerned about language in the Notice asking for comment on whether the FCC was correct in its 2017 decision that abolished the main studio rule and the policy requiring broadcasters to have the capability of originating programming from a physical location in their service areas.
The proposal to prioritize the processing of applications by stations with local programming is a narrow one. The priority would only apply to renewal applications, and applications for sales of full-power stations (assignments of licenses and transfers of control). The FCC’s proposal would not apply this preference to routine applications that are processed in the normal course (with renewals usually being granted within a month after the three-month comment period following the renewal filing deadline, and assignment and transfer applications similarly being routinely granted within a few weeks of the end of the 30 day public comment period following the public notice of the filing of an application for FCC approval of the sale). Instead, the majority decision proposes to apply the priority only to applications that are non-routine, giving faster processing to applications that have petitions filed against them, or where the FCC has other concerns with a routine grant of the application (seemingly, in the renewal context, that would apply to cases where there are certifications in the application that cannot be made by an applicant, e.g., where it cannot certify that it had properly maintained its public inspection file during the license term, or that the applicant had not violated FCC rules or had not been silent for an extended period during the license term).Continue Reading FCC Proposes to Prioritize Processing of Applications by Stations with Local Programming – And Asks Many Questions About Whether the FCC Should Have Abolished the Main Studio Rule