By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP
We’ve heard that some broadcasters are worried about staffing their main studios and allowing the public to visit the studios in this period where the government and health authorities have called for social distancing. With the elimination of the main studio and studio staffing rules back in 2018 (see our articles here and here), this should not be an issue. Broadcast stations are no longer required to maintain any physical studio facilities in their service areas. If they do decide to have a local studio, they are no longer required to maintain any level of studio staffing. So, just as long as the station can monitor their technical operations, originate and pass through EAS, and respond to anyone who calls the local telephone number maintained by the station, the station need not be open to the public during the current health crisis. Obviously, stations must maintain the public file which is now online – as the public can view it from anywhere. No physical access to the public file is necessary (except in limited instances when the FCC online platform is down, when the political file must still be made available).
We covered some considerations about other issues that may be of concern if a broadcaster does not maintain local studios in our 2018 article here. There may be other staffing requirements associated with special situations so always consult your counsel for more details. So pay attention to the little details, but do not worry if you plan to close your front door to the public during this time of social distancing as the FCC no longer requires that the door be opened during normal business hours as had been required prior to 2018.
David Oxenford is MAB’s Washington Legal Counsel and provides members with answers to their legal questions with the MAB Legal Hotline. Access information here. (Members only access).
There are no additional costs for the call; the advice is free as part of your MAB membership.