LEWISTOWN — Local radio broadcasters say proposed federal regulations that would require their stations to maintain continuous 24-hour staffing could prove to be a real financial burden.
The Federal Communication Commission reasons that by always having a staff person at the station, the community will be better served, according to a report from the FCC.
“We are considering requirements that licensees maintain a physical presence at each radio broadcast facility during all hours of operation. This requirement can only increase the ability of stations to provide information of a local nature to the community of license,” the report states.
For example, a radio station would be more capable of communicating critical lifesaving information, such as severe weather or local emergency situations, according to the report.
However, local broadcasters say they already are involved in their communities, and the proposed regulations could negatively impact their stations’ financial viability.
Pete Herman, general manager for WMRF 95.7 FM and WITF 670 AM in Lewistown, said he believes the regulations are caused by a small number of cases in which a community member was unable to contact someone from the station to broadcast an emergency announcement.
“Now they’re going to punish everyone,” Herman said.
Through the regulations, the FCC is trying to solve problems of community accessibility that were lost during the 1980s after large corporations began to broadcast from out of state, Herman said.
The regulations, if passed, would drastically impact the finances of local stations because of the costs they would incur to maintain staffing 24 hours per day, seven days a week, Herman said.
Because of advances in computer technology, radio stations do not need someone to physically be “on the air” every hour of the day, said Mark VanOuse, station manager for WTLR 107.1 FM in Mifflintown.
“If we had someone there (all the time), they’d be twiddling their thumbs,” he said.
WTLR staff members already are on site more than normal business hours, with the day beginning around 5:30 a.m. and ending around 6 p.m., VanOuse said.
Larry Weidman, general manager of WGRC FM 90.9 in Lewistown, said his station would have to employ two more full-time people if the regulations are passed.
“We’re staffed about 12 hours a day, but on the weekends (the station) is totally automated,” Weidman said.
“Economically, we’d have to make some radical changes,” if the station went to 24-hour staffing, he said.
Herman, a board member of the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters, said he addressed his concerns to congressional representatives about the situation in February.
VanOuse said area residents who want to learn more about the issue can go online to www.savechristianradio.com or contact their local legislators.