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FCC Reinstates Non-Duplication Rule for FM Stations

For decades, the FCC enforced a non-duplication rule for radio stations. At the time, the Commission believed that such duplication was an inefficient use of spectrum. In 1992, the FCC adopted the most recent version of the rule, which limited the duplication of programming by commonly owned stations or stations commonly operated through a time brokerage agreement in the same service (AM or FM) with substantially overlapping signals to 25% of the average broadcast week. 

In 2020, the FCC eliminated the 25% rule for both AM and FM stations. In response to petitions for reconsideration by several music interests, the FCC law week reinstated the rule for FM stations.

“[W]e reinstate section 73.3556 of our rules as to FM stations in order to further the goals of competition, programming diversity, localism, and spectrum efficiency.  We find that Petitioners provide valid reasons to reconsider eliminating the radio duplication rule as applied to FM stations, and we conclude that the record supports reinstating the rule for FM service.  Specifically, we find that the record does not provide sufficient evidence that the rule, as applied to FM service, has caused or will cause harm to FM licensees, that market forces alone would be sufficient to preserve the rule’s benefits, or that the 25% duplication allowance set forth in the former rule and the potential to seek a waiver to exceed that allowance in the event of special circumstances is insufficient to provide FM licensees with flexibility where needed.... 
As a result, we believe that elimination of the rule for FM service in the final Order was, at best, premature given the absence of such evidence, and particularly as balanced against the countervailing public interest objectives the rule serves.  Accordingly, we find that reinstating the radio duplication rule for FM service strikes the right balance between affording FM stations the ability to repurpose some amount of programming on commonly owned stations while continuing to further the public interest goals of competition, programming diversity, localism, and spectrum efficiency.”

The vote to reinstate the rule was by party line 3-2, with the democrats voting in favor of reinstating the regulation. Frankly, it is difficult to believe that in 2024 the FCC would keep such ancient regulations.  Radio exists in a hyper-competitive market, and stations should be able to use those formats on their facilities that allow them to compete effectively.

You can see a copy of the Commission's decision here.



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