(CN) – The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday voted to eliminate a longstanding rule requiring television and radio broadcasters to maintain studios in the communities they serve.
The commission passed the proposal by a 3-2, party-line vote. The Republican majority said the 80-year-old rule was antiquated and irrelevant in a world where local news can easily be found online.
The two Democrats countered by saying they fear tossing the requirement would foster further media consolidation and undermine local news coverage.
In a statement, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said “the record shows that main studios are no longer needed to enable broadcasters to be responsive to their communities of license.”
“That’s because the public these days is much more likely to interact with stations (including accessing stations’ public files) online. Additionally, technology allows broadcast stations to produce local news even without a nearby studio,” Pai said.
But Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democratic FCC Commissioner, said the recent spate of catastrophic hurricanes shows how valuable local news coverage can be.
“There are many broadcasters who do an extraordinary job serving communities during disaster,” she said. “But … they can only do so when they have a real presence in their area of license. That’s not a retrograde notion. It’s a fact.”