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Former FEMA Head Backs Geo-Targeted Radio

Cites benefits in situations like the current pandemic

A former head of FEMA says the FCC should allow geo-targeted radio programming in the United States.

Craig Fugate was administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency from 2009 to 2017. He told Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai in a letter this week that he supports a rule change that would permit radio broadcasters to deploy geo-targeted programming.

The change was requested by technology company GeoBroadcast Solutions, which has been advocating the idea for years and recently made a formal request for a rule change. The FCC is taking comments through May 4 on the idea.

[Read “FCC Seeks Comment on Geo-Targeting for Radio Stations”]

Geo-targeted radio programming would include locally targeted advertising — which is a significant selling point to the radio industry — as well as targeted informational programming. But it is the emergency alerting aspect that Fugate focused on. “I have witnessed first-hand that our oldest form of broadcast, radio, remains the most reliable, stable form of communicating,” said Fugate, according to a press release from GBS.

He told the FCC that “localized” radio broadcast updates of the COVID-19 crisis would serve the public good. “Consider the benefit of reaching a 25-mile portion of a radio signal about local test sites or shelters versus informing that same station’s 100-mile audience that do not need those specifics but require their own, zoned, details,” Fugate wrote.

Fugate has often spoken publicly, both during and after his tenure at FEMA, about the value of radios and radio broadcasting in emergency preparedness.

[Read what Craig Fugate said about radio and the coronavirus pandemic.]

The system GeoBroadcast wants to use is based on FM booster networks. “Radio is currently the only mass medium that cannot geo-target its content,” the company has argued.

The FCC is taking comments here. Use proceeding number RM-11854.