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FCC Seeks Comment on Geo-Targeting with FM Boosters


In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC is seeking comment on whether to modify the Commission's rules governing the operation of FM booster stations by FM radio broadcasters in certain limited circumstances. Consistent with the petition for rulemaking submitted by GeoBroadcast Solutions, the NPRM seeks input regarding changes that could allow FM broadcasters to use these booster stations to air geo-targeted content, such as news, weather and advertisements, independent of the signals of its primary station for a limited period of time during the broadcast hour.

The Commission's current rules authorize FM booster stations to retransmit only the signal of their primary station. The booster station must operate on the same frequency as the primary station within the primary station's protected service contour. As a technical matter, however, GeoBroadcast Solutions asserts that an FM booster station can air different content for limited periods of time within the primary station's protected service contour without causing any adjacent-channel interference, and that any resulting co-channel interference would be manageable and not detrimental to listeners.

The FCC found that the petition presents novel technical and public interest issues that would benefit from additional consideration, provided that the technical operation would not degrade the FM service. The agency feels the use of FM booster stations to air geo-targeted content could potentially help FM broadcasters, including small and independent broadcast stations owned by women, minorities, and small businesses, to provide important and more locally relevant information and to better compete for advertising revenue in the media marketplace.

"We welcome today's vote by the FCC and thank the Chairman and Commissioners for starting the process that will allow geo-targeting to come to broadcast radio," said Robert Udowitz, a spokesperson for GeoBroadcast Solutions. "The prospect of hyper-localizing over-the-air radio content has great potential for the industry in reaching underserved audiences, as well as providing news and alerts on a regional basis, and improving the advertising revenue for the stations.

"Industry groups, media and advertising companies, broadcasting companies, minority coalitions, and individual stations have all supported and seen the prospects for this technology. We are encouraged and optimistic that the NPRM will continue its course and be enacted in 2021."

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