Last month, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) seeking comment on a proposal that it reports is intended to incentivize the production of local media by radio and television broadcast stations.  In the NPRM, the FCC proposes to “adopt a processing policy to prioritize evaluation of those applications filed by stations that certify that they provide locally originated programming” in certain circumstances.  FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel has stated that this proposal will support local journalism, which she explained is “vital for our communities and our country.”

The FCC would apply this new processing priority to applications for renewal, assignment, or transfer only if processing is not immediately available because the application has a hold, petition to deny, or other pending issue requiring further staff review.  To take advantage of the processing priority, applicants would be required to include a voluntary certification indicating that they satisfy the Commission’s requirements for the priority.  The NPRM seeks comment on how the Commission should define “local” and “originated” for purposes of this rule, as well as how much local programming a station will be required to originate to obtain its benefit.  The Commission suggests that by giving applications from licensees that produce local media first priority, such applications would likely be acted on more quickly. 

Notably, the item questions certain conclusions reached in the 2017 Main Studio Elimination Order, which eliminated the requirement that radio and television broadcast stations maintain a main studio located in or near their community of license.  For instance, the FCC tentatively concludes that “locally originated programming usually reflects needs, interests, circumstances, or perspectives that may be quite pertinent to that community and that production of local broadcast programming remains a key consideration.”  Accordingly, the NPRM specifically seeks comment on whether the elimination of the main studio rule has indeed fostered the creation of more and better local content, as the 2017 order predicted.  The NPRM does not, however, propose to reinstate the main studio rule.

Comments on the proposals are due in MB Docket No. 24-14 no later than March 11, 2024, and reply comments are due no later than April 8, 2024.

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Photo of Matthew DelNero Matthew DelNero

Matt DelNero provides expert regulatory counsel to companies of all sizes in the telecommunications, technology and media sectors. As a former senior official with the FCC and longtime private practitioner, Matt helps clients achieve their goals and navigate complex regulatory and public policy…

Matt DelNero provides expert regulatory counsel to companies of all sizes in the telecommunications, technology and media sectors. As a former senior official with the FCC and longtime private practitioner, Matt helps clients achieve their goals and navigate complex regulatory and public policy challenges.

Matt serves as co-chair of Covington’s Technology & Communications Regulation (“TechComm”) Practice Group and co-chair of the firm’s Diversity & Inclusion initiative.

Matt advises clients on the full range of issues impacting telecommunications, technology and media providers today, including:

  • Structuring and securing FCC and other regulatory approvals for media and telecommunications transactions.
  • Conducting regulatory due diligence for transactions in the telecommunications, media, and technology sectors.
  • Obtaining approval for foreign investment in broadcasters and telecommunications providers.
  • Universal Service Fund (USF) programs, including the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunities Fund (RDOF).
  • FCC enforcement actions and inquiries.
  • Online video accessibility, including under the Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • Equipment authorizations for IoT and other devices.
  • Spectrum policy and auctions, including for 5G.
  • Privacy and data protection, with a focus on telecommunications and broadband providers.

Matt also maintains an active pro bono practice representing LGBTQ+ asylum seekers, as well as veterans petitioning for discharge upgrades—including discharges under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and predecessor policies that targeted LGBTQ+ servicemembers.

Prior to rejoining Covington in January 2017, Matt served as Chief of the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau. He played a leading role in development of policies around net neutrality, broadband privacy, and broadband deployment and affordability under the federal Universal Service Fund (USF).

Chambers USA has recognized Matt as a “go-to attorney for complex matters before the FCC and other federal agencies, drawing on impressive former government experience.”

Photo of John Cobb John Cobb

John Cobb is an associate in the firm’s Washington, DC office and a member of the Technology and Communications Regulation Practice Group. Prior to joining Covington, John served as the Legal Advisor to the FCC’s Broadband Data Task Force where he provided legal…

John Cobb is an associate in the firm’s Washington, DC office and a member of the Technology and Communications Regulation Practice Group. Prior to joining Covington, John served as the Legal Advisor to the FCC’s Broadband Data Task Force where he provided legal guidance to the Task Force on matters related to implementation of the Broadband DATA Act and the FCC’s Broadband Data Collection. Before that, John served as an Honors Attorney in the Policy Division of the FCC’s Media Bureau where he worked on matters affecting the media industry, including multiple administrative rulemakings in the Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative.