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Group Meets with FCC Chair Rosenworcel Over Zonecasting


GeoBroadcast Solutions
GeoBroadcast Solutions

Representatives from the National Newspaper Publishers Association, Roberts Radio Broadcasting, the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council, JAM Media Solutions, Kizart Media Partners, Covington (counsel to GeoBroadcast Solutions) met with FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on August 2, along with Chief of the Media Bureau Holly Saurer, Legal Advisor for Media David Strickland and Special Advisor to the Chairwoman Sanford Williams.

The meeting with Rosenworcel and other FCC staffers was to express broad and deep support for the proposal to permit FM broadcasters to originate content from booster stations for a limited portion of each broadcast hour to provide hyper-local content to their communities. They also urged the Commission to act promptly on this matter.

The group emphasized the following:

  • The limited, voluntary nature of the FM geo-targeting proposal. The proposed rule change would not mandate the use of such technology by any FM station, but for small and medium-sized broadcasters it would enable them to geo-target hyper-local news, sports, weather, and advertising content to a portion of their listeners.

  • That every other form of media has this capability, and the radio industry needs to innovate to keep pace since the industry currently is in decline.

  • That this rule change will benefit minority-owned stations, minority- owned businesses seeking to advertise on radio, and minority audiences that will hear new targeted content, including hyper-local weather and traffic information.

  • That the testing done at Roberts Radio Broadcasting' s WRBJ-FM in Jackson, Mississippi demonstrates this. During the geo-targeting tests, WRBJ's coverage and Nielsen ratings improved, drawing in new advertisers interested in advertising to a targeted area in the Jackson community.

  • That this technology adds small, local businesses to the advertising pool. Not all businesses want, need, or can afford market-wide advertising, and this rule change will create new opportunities for them too. And listeners will benefit from this targeted content that directly affects their communities, rather than market-wide content that may overlook their needs and interests.

  • That the field tests performed at KSJO(FM) in San Jose, CA and WRBJ show that the technical concerns raised about this technology have been thoroughly answered. These tests demonstrate that the booster systems can be designed to improve the signal for parts of the market with minuscule transition areas. Importantly, the testing at WRBJ shows that even in a challenging environment like pancake-flat Jackson, the booster technology can be designed to minimize interference between a primary signal and a geo-targeted booster signal and to render minuscule transition areas in low or non-populated parts of the broadcaster' s footprint.

  • That current FCC Rule 74.1203 already requires a broadcaster using an FM booster to ensure that "it does not disrupt the existing service of its primary station or cause such interference within the boundaries of the principle community of its primary station. "

  • This existing rule reinforces the broadcaster' s business incentive to reduce self-interference, and the statements in the record from multiple consulting engineers shows that these system designs are readily achievable and reflect basic engineering practices.

  • Lastly, it was explained that there is zero risk of cross-channel interference, since these FM geo-targeted boosters will operate on the same frequency as the primary station, just as boosters work today.

The group closed the meeting by noting it "was unfortunate the largest radio group owners seek to stifle innovation and hobble the small, independent, and in many cases minority-owned stations trying to find a way to compete in today's media marketplace." Given the overall trends in radio revenues, it was stressed that the Commission should do whatever it can to give radio stations the ability to innovate and compete.

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