Last week, the FCC approved a long-pending request by GeoBroadcast Solutions to allow FM boosters to originate limited amounts of programming that is different from what is broadcast on the booster’s primary station.  Boosters operate on the same channel as an FM broadcast station and have traditionally been used to fill in holes in an FM station’s coverage area where service that would otherwise be predicted to occur is blocked by terrain obstacles or some other impediment that prevents the main station from reaching a part of the station’s primary service area (in most cases a 60 dBu or 1 mv/m signal) predicted using the FCC’s standard coverage prediction methodology.  As boosters operate on the same channel as the main station, their use has always been limited because of fears of creating interference to the main station’s signal if not properly shielded by terrain or other obstacles.  The service approved last week – called “geocasting” or “zonecasting” – is supposed to allow boosters to originate limited amounts of programming different from the primary station and minimize interference not by terrain, but by other signal timing and coordination methodologies.  The proponent of the system claimed that this would minimize interference and allow stations to originate different commercials, news reports, or other geographically targeted programming in the different parts of a station’s service area to better compete with the geotargeting used by the digital media companies that are now competitors to radio.

Numerous broadcasters, and the NAB, had opposed this effort, as we noted in a recent article on the controversy.  Their fear was that no matter how good the synchronization of these boosters may be, there will still be the potential for some interference.  Just by putting more signals on the FM band in close proximity to each other, some interference naturally will result.  Objections were also raised about the economic impact of the proposals.  With more radio inventory addressing fewer people, there are fears that the implementation of this proposal could drive down radio advertising prices far below the rate now in place.  In addition, there are worries about the impact that geocasting could have in outlying smaller markets – as big market stations could use boosters in outlying parts of their service areas to target advertisers in these areas, taking advertising away from the full power stations serving those outlying communities.  The FCC’s order last week noted that the New Jersey broadcasters expressed particular concern, as New York and Philadelphia stations could use boosters to target advertisers who now buy advertising on New Jersey stations to reach local consumers because rates on the big city stations are cost prohibitive for reaching a targeted audience.  The fear is that these advertisers will now use the boosters of big city stations and abandon their local broadcasters, and that big stations will get bigger and more dominant, at the expense of the local stations doing local service to these outlying areas.Continue Reading FCC Approves Origination of Programming on FM Boosters to Facilitate Geocasting – Targeting Different Ads or Programming to Different Parts of FM Station’s Service Area

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from this past week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

This week, Commissioners Carr and Starks issued a joint statement congratulating Chairwoman Rosenworcel for circulating an order to resolve the FCC’s long-pending proceeding about whether to authorize “zonecasting” or “geo-targeting” for FM stations.  Zonecasting would allow FM broadcasters to use FM booster stations operating on the same channel as their main signal, within a station’s existing service area, to originate different programming in different parts of their markets.  Theoretically, this would allow a station to run different commercials in different parts of a station’s service area during the same commercial break. The Commissioners applauded the technical innovation giving broadcasters a choice as to whether they will implement the new system.  While some small broadcasters have supported this proposal, many other broadcasters have vehemently opposed the idea.  Why would so many broadcasters oppose the idea that the Commission seems poised to adopt?

Many of the objections are technical in nature.  Even though the proponents of the system argue that they have minimized any interference that would occur from different FM boosters originating different programming on the same channel as the main station on the same frequency in the same service area, other broadcasters argue that no matter how good the technology, putting more signals on the same channel cannot avoid creating more FM noise.  In today’s electronic world, there are already innumerable sources of potential noise to over-the-air signals, and adding programming on the same channel cannot avoid adding to the problem.Continue Reading FCC Nears Decision on Zonecasting for FM Stations – What’s at Stake?

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The FCC has requested comments on a proposal for a new Content Vendor Diversity Report. A public interest group has

The FCC released a Public Notice last week setting the date for comments on the results of GeoBroadcast Solutions tests of their “zonecasting” system that would allow FM boosters within a primary FM station’s protected contour to originate limited amounts of programming different than that carried on the main station. Comments on the tests are due by June 6, with replies to the comments due by June 21.

The zonecasting proposal has been pitched as a way to allow FM stations to localize their content – making it possible for one FM station to use FM boosters to run different commercials or news inserts in different parts of their service area.  The hope of supporters is that adoption of this proposal would give broadcasters a tool to fight back at the targeting of listeners that can be done by online audio services.  While some stations and groups have seen this as a potential positive, others, including the NAB, have been more critical of the proposal.
Continue Reading Comments on Tests of GeoBroadcast Solutions Zonecasting System Due June 6 – What Are the Issues?

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • A list of “ex parte” presentations made to the FCC (disclosures of presentations made to FCC decision makers outside of

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The US House of Representatives, in a bipartisan vote, passed the MORE Act, a bill to decriminalize marijuana at the

With the federal government and the FCC under new management, Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel may well take the Commission in a direction that aligns with the policies she supported during her time as a Commissioner.  It is notable that, no matter what policies she advances, the routine regulatory dates that fill up a broadcaster’s calendar are generally unchanged.  Some of the dates and deadlines which broadcasters should remember in February are discussed below.  Given the transition period that we have just been through, the number of February dates are somewhat lighter than in most months – but that is sure to pick up as everyone settles into their new roles at the FCC.

On or before February 1, radio stations in Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma and television stations in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi must file their license renewal applications through the FCC’s Licensing and Management System (LMS).  Those stations must also file with the FCC a Broadcast EEO Program Report (Form 2100, Schedule 396) and, if they are part of a station employment unit (a station or a group of commonly owned stations in the same market that share at least one employee) with 5 or more full-time employees, upload to their public file and post a link on their station website to their Annual EEO Public Inspection File report covering their hiring and employment outreach activities for the twelve months from February 1, 2020 to January 31, 2021.  TV and radio stations licensed to communities in New Jersey and New York which are part of an employment unit with 5 or more full-time employees also must upload to their public inspection file their Annual EEO Public Inspection File report by February 1.
Continue Reading February Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: License Renewals, EEO Reporting, KidVid Reports, Zonecasting Comments, FCC Open Meeting, and More

Here are some of the regulatory developments of the last week of significance to broadcasters, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.  We also note an upcoming event to which broadcasters will want to pay attention.

  • After a multi-year review of the