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Report: Questions Raised About Support of Geo-Targeting Technology

NAB questions validity of some comments from small broadcasters

NAB has called attention to a story in Communications Daily that alleges comments filed in support of GeoBroadcast Solutions and its ZoneCasting technology may have been misappropriated.

Radio World reported earlier this week how NAB has openly questioned the generation of 93 letters to the FCC that are supportive of the GBS booster technology, which, if implemented by broadcasters, allows them to voluntarily geo-target some of their broadcast content for short periods of time; most often commercials and weather forecasts. 

The FCC is currently considering a proposal from GBS that would change the current FM booster rule to allow them to originate programming.

NAB asserts GBS has attempted to falsify an intra-radio industry rift regarding its geo-targeting proposal and contends “the vast majority of comments from broadcasters supporting GBS’ proposal are form letters, and that these form letters − representing what NAB believes to be 93 of the 109 stations purportedly supporting GBS − were signed by a longtime counsel to GBS, who has also been a Devine business partner.”

The broadcaster group told the FCC “some curious patterns quickly emerge” when examining the form letters and identifies the GBS business partner mentioned by NAB as Aaron Shainis, partner with Shainis & Peltzman, who is identified as counsel for the small broadcasters who filed letters in support of ZoneCasting.

NAB commented to the FCC: “First, the vast majority of comments filed in support of the rule change are identical form letters. These forms are not signed by the broadcaster whose name appears on the form and no contact person or telephone number for the broadcaster is listed. In fact, the forms contain no substantive indication that the comments were reviewed or endorsed by the named broadcaster. Notably, these form letters– representing 93 of the 109 stations purportedly supporting GBS (that NAB could identify) – were filed under the signature of attorney Aaron P. Shainis.

“The Commission’s records reflect that Mr. Shainis is a longtime counsel to GBS and appears to have been (and perhaps still is) in business with Mr. Devine.”

In fact, NAB claims Shainis authored GBS’s original petition for rulemaking in 2012.

[Find the rest of our stories covering the geo-targeting debate here]

In the Communications Daily story that NAB shared with trade media outlets, the publication reached out to Andrew DeVall, president of Q Media Properties, licensee of WCMP(FM) in Pine City, Minn. DeVall told Communications Daily “he had no idea” how his company “got looped in” with supporters of ZoneCasting.  

DeVall’s station serves small communities and wouldn’t be a good fit for the tech, he told Communications Daily.

However, Q Media Properties wrote in its comments in early 2021: “Q Properties would be able to utilize the zoned broadcast coverage to provide targeted emergency alerts, local news and public interest programming, live local events of great interest to small portions of the station service area, geo-targeted weather information, geo-targeted traffic information and localized advertisements responsive to the needs of small businesses.”

Q Media Properties continued: “The benefits of geo-targeting are substantial. More advertisers are able to afford the benefits of radio advertising, lower costs to advertisers and lower costs to consumers.”   

The letter is signed by Shainis, who is identified as counsel for Q Media Properties, LLC. 

DeVall told Radio World in an email that Q Media is not commenting on the issue. 

In a final footnote in its comments, NAB wrote: “In addition to sufficiently informing his clients of the substantive issues regarding ZoneCasting, one hopes that Mr. Shainis, at the least, adhered to D.C. Bar rules and informed the station clients he solicited to support GBS of his involvement with the company, and the extent of that involvement, including any ownership share in GBS or other business interests of Mr. Devine, or success fee if GBS’s petition is approved.”

The attorney representing GBS has replied to NAB’s claims; read that here.