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NAB Files Comments on FCC Booster Station Rules


GeoBroadcast Solutions
GeoBroadcast Solutions

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has filed comments with the FCC Petition for Rulemaking filed by GeoBroadcast Solutions that requests a change in the Commission's rules to allow FM booster stations to originate programming on a limited basis. This would enable FM broadcasters to use GBS's booster system design to simultaneously location target different programming to different parts of their service area.

NAB supports allowing radio stations to "geotarget" a limited amount of content, while continuing to broadcast substantially similar programming throughout their service area. GBS proposes that the programming aired on a station's booster must be substantially similar to that aired on the primary station, meaning that the programming must be the same except for advertisements, promotions for upcoming programs and enhanced capabilities including hyper-localized content.

The ability to geotarget some programming could allow broadcasters to improve service even more. NAB states that GBS has sufficiently demonstrated the viability of its' system to enable geotargeted programming, and that further consideration of GBS's proposal in a rulemaking proceeding is justified. GBS says that it has demonstrated and improved the effectiveness of its system during three tests over the past decade under FCC experimental authorizations, and also verified the parameters of its system at NPR Labs. GBS further notes that zoned broadcasting has already been successfully deployed in parts of France.

NAB supports allowing radio broadcasters to geotarget a limited amount of announcements and other programming within their service area, and GBS's system appears to be the leading, if only, currently viable approach. Geotargeting could allow FM stations to direct warnings and announcements to listeners most likely to be affected by an emergency, and provide more relevant, tailored news, information, PSAs and even foreign language announcements to pockets of their service area.

For example, NAB wrote, that a broadcaster could conceivably broadcast different local event calendars or Spanish language public information announcements. The trade organization believes that listeners clearly stand to benefit from such hyper-local service, and allowing radio stations to implement such a system would certainly support the Commission's goal of localism.

Geotargeting may also create new revenue streams for FM radio that could help broadcasters overcome the ongoing competitive and financial challenges that face radio, writes NAB, which have been magnified exponentially by the ongoing pandemic.

As discussed in the Petition, both local and national retailers increasingly use some form of targeted advertising to reach their most likely customers. BIA predicts that just three categories of this market (direct mail, out-of-home and location targeted mobile) will increase by $16.8 billion over the next five years.

Digital audio competitors including Spotify and Pandora, as well as MVPDs, online mobile and other media can all offer geotargeted options to advertisers. NAB says the ability to geotarget content will provide an attractive option to certain FM broadcasters by allowing them to contend for this substantial and growing pool of revenues.

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