CBC: Localism Changes Would Hurt Minority Broadcasters

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus tell FCC not to change main-studio rules or require 24-hour staffing.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have told the FCC not to change its main-studio rules or require 24-hour station staffing. 

The commission had asked for comment on proposals to require stations to relocate their main studios in their cities of license and to have a warm body at the station at all times—part of an effort to close its media-ownership rule review by both loosening the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule and taking various steps to promote localism.

But in a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin this week, caucus members said the cost of either measure would impose "a significant financial hardship on minority broadcasters." They point out that the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters and the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council also oppose those changes.

They legislators argue that forcing stations to break their leases and find new space in their cities of license could put some stations out of business, as would "requiring a station to hire extra personnel to staff a station 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, on the chance that a disaster may occur in the middle of the night," which they said was a "disproportionate burden on stations for a nominal potential increase in public service."

Separately, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) sent a letter to the commission last week expressing the same concerns. 

Broadcasters have separately taken the FCC to court and officially asked it to reconsider other localism proposals it adopted that would require broadcasters to provide more information on the types of programming they air, vet those shows with community leaders, and put almost all its FCC files online.

Those requirements, too, were part of the FCC's effort to close the book on its ownership rule review.