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Thread: Main Studio Rule...

  1. #11
    Regarding the main studio rule as it currently stands, what is stopping radio stations from co-locating with, for example, an insurance agency, as long as they can connect to the transmitter and go live, maintain access to the public file, and pay someone at the agency a nominal salary, say $300/month to keep the main studio staffed, since they're already staffing the agency? Feel free to shoot holes in this scenario.

    This proposal will help the micro markets and singleton stations the most. Put me in with the "overall, not much will change" group.

  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by joebtsflk1 View Post
    Regarding the main studio rule as it currently stands, what is stopping radio stations from co-locating with, for example, an insurance agency, as long as they can connect to the transmitter and go live, maintain access to the public file, and pay someone at the agency a nominal salary, say $300/month to keep the main studio staffed, since they're already staffing the agency? Feel free to shoot holes in this scenario.

    This proposal will help the micro markets and singleton stations the most. Put me in with the "overall, not much will change" group.
    A lot of stations have done this in the past. It's still an expense. When we are talking about a combo of rural stations licensed to separate communities but managed together, we may also be talking about billings of just a few hundred thousand a year. Spending $3,600 for a salary, some fee for the location for the fake studio and adding in the costs of an Internet service or dedicated line of some kind, added insurance, business licenses and such and we get to perhaps $10,000 extra expense. That is a lot for a small combo.

    The real issue is that none of this is needed, and has not been for decades.

    One of the FCC Commissioners suggested that stations, instead, have "manned" phone service in the community during all hours of operation. She does not realize that many people don't communicate by phone anymore and that in emergencies, some minimum wage phone attendant is not going to be able to handle any emergency anyway. Many stations have considerable walk-away time... often as the owner goes out on sales calls in tiny operations. EAS is done automatically, whether there is anyone "home" at all. That incredibly dumb suggestion shows how out of touch some at the FCC really are.

    The average US station outside a top 100 market bills less than $400,000 a year. There are about 11,000 of those stations (not including translators). After expenses, such stations barely provide a tolerable salary for the owner so added expenses are not the right way of looking at this.

    As a point of reference, I read somewhere that the average Pizza Hut franchise does over $1 million a year in business.
    Last edited by DavidEduardo; 05-19-2017 at 01:16 AM.
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  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by gr8oldies View Post
    I've been in 2 "old radio guy" Facebook groups today and the almost unanimous opinion is that it's the end of local radio because iHeart and others will close every single studio in the country except one.
    The funny thing is that in much of the world, radio has been highly centralized with national programming coming out of a nation's capital or major city. This started with government stations like the BBC and RAI being the major broadcasters long ago, and commercial operators emulating the model when they could.

    Much of US radio from the late 20's into the early 50's was similarly done by the big networks from centralized studios. It worked really well, but the technology was primitive and expensive and not everyone could do it. Today, national formats and centralized programming is a definite alternative to delivering quality programming, particularly since technology is cheap and allows all kinds of localization. The idea of a "local studio" is becoming an anachronism.
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  4. #14
    I'd like to know what WMXF Waynesville NC does. It is the one station licensed to Waynesville and has its transmitter there (another station was but moved closer to Asheville and changed its city of license too) and there is only one other station in the county, but in a different town. The company now called iHeart bought the station back in around 2000 when I think it was broadcasting mostly Westwood One programming from Asheville. I don't know how much of the programming was originating from the studios on the second floor in a downtown building with a sign outside. There may have been a morning show until about ten years ago. WWNC, iHeart's Rush Limbaugh station, didn't really need a simulcast partner since it is 5000 watts 24 hours a day and on 570, which is probably like 50,000 watts on the other end of the dial. At the motel where I stay about 40 miles west of Asheville, WWNC has had problems in recent years, though WMXF, at 1400 and 1000 watts all the time, is directional at night and doesn't reach the motel either. Where I used to stay 30 miles west of Asheville, WWNC was fine but WMXF was better. Still, for about ten years nearly everything on WWNC has been on WMXF except for the high school's football games, American Legion baseball, some college sports and maybe NASCAR for a while, and a local (Asheville, actually, and on several stations) talk show that lasted several years, and yet that downtown studio continued to have a sign saying "Your Hometown Station". I can't remember whether I saw the sign outside last year. The last time I went up the stairs I don't think anything was there.

  5. #15

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    With the ground conductivity around Asheville, it's a wonder WWNC gets much of anywhere, even on 570. Western North Carolina is horrible for both AM and FM.

  6. #16
    "the main proponents of this plan are religious and minority broadcasters"

    This wouldn't happen to be some of the same religious broadcasters that pay millions for commercial stations and then claim "hardship waivers" would it?

    Pai cites an example of an owner that has an AM permit but isn't building it because of the main studio rule. One wonders why he'd have acquired it to begin with knowing those rules if they were so onerous.

    Broadcasters, of which I'm one, knew the rules when they signed up. I'm not opposed to waivers where truly needed, but to allow commercial operators to go the route of what certain very profitable "non profits" do isn't beneficial.

    It also has a distortionary effect on market values, to concur with one of the filed comments. Removing that obligation makes nationalizing programming and more consolidating even more appealing, because of the reduced expenses. And while there's not a large amount of remaining CPs, some of those could be priced out of smaller operators so the largest could add one more link to their national chain.

    Every time some innovation or market change has taken establishment broadcasters by surprise, they complain to the government about how over regulated they are and make promises about how much more local and more innovative and profitable they'll be if another regulation is removed. Every time. Docket 80-90. Telcom 96. And so on.

    The only concrete results we've seen are more job loss, increased consolidation and decreased quality and community service. If anyone's laboring under the delusion that iHeart will turn their KissFm into our BBC Radio 1, spoiler alert, not happening. As with most things lobbied for by special interests, it only benefits those who wish to cut corners or have already failed.

    Same goes for 90% of the free translators about to be given out to AM owners who didn't plan ahead or invest elsewhere. More band clutter, more listener frustration, and very few exceptional and local stations doing more than birdfed talk and sports. Maybe they'll turn their 0.5 into a 1 share. Beyond that, it's more meaningless favoritism.

    If you can't figure out how to make it work and play by the rules, feel free to sell or take the stations dark.

  7. #17

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    But just exactly will happen if the rule is eliminated? Is it not already true that those stations that can put up with the extra expense already to go after the larger population? And right now, what is the 'local' service such a station does beyond lip service of the town name in the legal ID? As it is, it's simply a 'penalty' for such stations and the purpose of the rule remains unfulfilled. And the FCC knows that.

    Of those small towns, how many are actually there during normal business hours versus commuting to that larger town for their jobs. I do not buy 'you knew what the rules were when you got in to the station' because radio is constantly changing. That little small farm town station 20 years ago is now, perhaps a town of suburbia without the sense of community it once had or listening patterns have changed as in AM radio. The McDonald's menu is not what it was 10, 20 years ago. Amazon is not what it was 10 or 20 years ago. My point is what might have been fine a decade ago is just not working today.

    There was a country small town radio station in Plano, Texas when I was growing up. It was a farm town. Today you'd be challenged to figure out where Dallas ends and Plano begins, or for that matter, where the more northerly town of McKinney (that had a nice hometown station), begins as the suburbs grow. At my station, it was all cattle grazing where the Super Walmart, Home Depot and such sit. Now it is a few miles to the country from here, but 10 or 15 years back that was not the case. Sure a few small subdivisions had gone in but it sure wasn't Houston at that point. We used to complain about how far we had to go to grab lunch because our studio was there. Even then, it was not financially feasible to just target our city of license with our programming. We intended from day one to go after Houston or at least our segment of the metro.

  8. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Andy Travis View Post

    If you can't figure out how to make it work and play by the rules, feel free to sell or take the stations dark.
    Maybe you haven't noticed but there are a way lot more stations than there should be.

    The FCC over licensed the spectrum. It started in the 1980s with Docket 80-90. They continue to flood it with LPFMs and translators. Too many stations splitting too little money. This is the result. So instead of cutting back on the number of stations, the FCC is making it cheaper for them to be run. Don't blame any of this on corporate radio. This is all the fault of the FCC.

  9. #19
    "But just exactly will happen if the rule is eliminated? "

    Your post seems to be concerning suburban stations that serve larger communities. I'm concerned with the smaller stations that turn into a server in a rackspace 2000 miles away to remove another expense from the budget when they could be operated as viable, local stations. I accept the fact that the suburban stations are already "metro" stations now. I'm referring to markets in more far flung communities than that.

    "I do not buy 'you knew what the rules were when you got in to the station"

    It doesn't matter if you "buy" it or not. The example Commissioner Pai cited in his statement is someone who either filed for or purchased an AM construction permit. Now if things "constantly changed" in that span of time that he held an unbuilt CP, he must have been delaying construction for quite a long time. Which is another thing that I've noticed speculators do. File for changes and it keeps extending the CP build date, but then oddly enough, they never build. Or they put it on the air, take it silent again often pleading technical or financial difficulty. When they simply aren't getting the price they want to sell it." This gentleman knew the rules in a reasonable period of time to construct, and in effect admitted to the Commissioner that he didn't do so because he wanted the rules changed. I don't agree with that sort of behavior.

    "Don't blame any of this on corporate radio. This is all the fault of the FCC."

    I most certainly blame the people blatantly lying about this. Come out and be honest. Say you want to cut it from your expenses. But don't go telling me it will result in some grand reinvestments in localism. It won't. And it never has. No one who is for the removal of this requirement can explain why it won't lead to exactly what a certain "non profit" has consistently done. Operating stations in markets like Hartford, CT from over 2,000 miles west. If you think this is a good thing for commercial radio, innovation and localism, you're wrong.
    Last edited by Andy Travis; 05-19-2017 at 05:10 PM.

  10. #20

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    Looks like we are talking two different things. I'm not saying anything about localism. I'm saying it never existed anyway. I think we're both saying that.

    The speculator in radio (ie: win a frequency and move it around and not build or just light it up to take it dark) is throughout the AM and FM dial. You have to know the FCC is fully aware of this. They allocate a frequency in a town of 300 with 2 or 3 businesses and expect the applicant to not move it? I too love their excuses. One of my favorites in 'we cannot find employees to man the station'. I saw another good one: 'our city of license has no local police department and given the crime situation, we request a move to this larger town because they have a full time police department and lower property crime statistics". They got the approval to move closer to the big city.

    I saw the Big Wells, Texas FM for sale: $350,000. Big Wells is about 700 people and 3 businesses in the middle of nowhere. I think it was bought for $50,000 and was originally running at 100 watts from a short stick, something like 80 feet HAAT. They are now a full Class A and the price has gone up 7 fold but the audience reached is still not much, surely not enough to pay normal operating experiences, much less debt service, purely in my humble opinion. However, a move could make it worth that. There seem to be one that was dark more than it was on the air.

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