Life After The Main Studio Rule


(By Jeff McHugh) The FCC just eliminated the main studio rule, which stipulated that American radio and television stations must keep a main studio close to their city of license. Look for more local studios to close and for more layoffs among local programming staff in the coming year. Change will also create opportunity for talented performers. Here are some ideas to consider.

Music stations will lose the most listeners. Music playlists will likely become more nationalized and generic. With sound-alike stations already on the air from Honolulu to Houston, many listeners will spend more time with customized playlists from services like Spotify and Pandora. But personalities that bond emotionally with audiences through killer content will keep more of their audiences listening.

  1. Shows that are local and excellent will thrive. Being local is not a winning strategy by itself, but shows that match or surpass the entertainment value of syndicated competitors will score winning ratings. Every syndicated show is beatable. And, great local shows will excel in revenue because advertisers prefer local.
  2. Look for more regional syndication. Shows like Jon Boy and Billy are successful in ratings and more appealing to advertisers than a national show. Some companies will not be able to afford a local show, and regional will be the next best strategy. If you are part of a winning local show, talk to us about branching out to nearby stations that need ratings help in 2018.
  3. Quality content will win despite where it comes from. NPR’s excellent morning and afternoon drive shows continue to grow in the ratings. Local shows that get cut for syndication typically under-perform their stations. High-quality shows like Brooke and Jubal or Elvis Duran perform above or at-par with their station more often.
  4. Pre-production is the future. If you do 100% of your show live, consider that your 2018 audience wants podcasts of your show, which means recording and editing. It makes sense to record and edit parts of your show and make it PPM-friendly before it airs on FM. Plus, if you hope to roll your local show out to other stations, pre-production helps you adapt to different affiliate formats, time zones, and hourly song count requirements.

Jeff McHugh is known for developing remarkable talent for both morning and afternoon drive. He brings an uncommon mix of positivity, creativity, and strategy to the shows that he coaches. He is a member of the team at the Randy Lane Company.


  1. Other than the faux studios (the public file sitting in an insurance company office in West Podunk for a distant rimshot in the cluster), no one is closing their offices and studios. If iHeart, Cumulus etc had wanted to do that, they already would have.

  2. There is absolutely nothing in the main studio rule about programming. Radio stations have been allowed to run nationalized playlists for years. They don’t do it because local makes more money. They don’t do it because it would prevent them from being chart reporters, and chart reporters get a lot of benefits from record labels. There is nothing in any FCC rules that prevents regional syndication. It’s been going on since the beginning of radio. In fact, back in the 1930s, radio stations were often just repeaters of a network feed from NBC or CBS. Historians refer to that time as the Golden Age of Radio. The purpose of the main studio rule was to give the community access to the public file during regular business hours. They can now do that online, thanks to a previous change in FCC rules that require public files to be available online. Once that happened, this rule became obsolete.


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