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The FCC’s Final Rules for Geotargeting Are Still Pending

It has approved the technology for “one-year, renewable experimental authorizations” until rules are finalized

Now that the FCC has given its approval for FM radio stations in the United States to originate programming on boosters for a limited amount of time every hour, it must create final rules for processing, licensing and service.

In a further notice of proposed rulemaking opened by the commission this week, the FCC says many questions remain about the implementation of new rules to allow broadcasters to air targeted content different from the primary station’s signal. During this process, the FCC says it will allow licensees to convert an existing booster and use it to originate programming under a one-year renewable experimental authorization, which allows the commission to “closely monitor the rollout of the technology.” 

Notably, the FCC says it is imperative for it to adopt a notification requirement for program originating boosters. “This will enable the Media Bureau to keep track of which stations are using boosters to originate content and to respond to any complaints that may arise,” the FCC says in the NPRM.

[Related: “The FCC Will Allow FM Geotargeting“]

The FCC says it is not proposing to subject broadcasters to filing windows specifically for program originating booster stations. Instead, it proposes to continue processing booster applications — whether now with program origination under experimental authority or in the future, pursuant to adopted rules, on a first come/first served basis using existing application procedures.

Other issues are yet to be decided, including whether full-service FM primary stations should be limited to 25 program originating booster stations. The FCC also seeks comment on whether GeoBroadcast Solutions, which offers a system called ZoneCasting, should make its technology an open standard. The FCC writes in the Report and Order that the commission does not endorse a particular technical approach.

It also seeks comment on whether the FCC should adopt a requirement that broadcasters synchronize their primary station and booster signals to reduce and eliminate self-interference. “GBS’s engineering consultant emphasized in the comments that synchronization is critical to successful booster implementation,” the FNPRM states. 

In addition, the commission raises non-technical matters, and whether it should take steps to limit the potential for redlining by advertisers or licensees. “We seek comment on whether a safeguard in the form of a reporting condition might generally be useful to address non-technical concerns.”

The FCC also asks about what political advertising reporting requirements should be placed on boosters.

Interested parties will be able to comment on the FCC FNPRM once it is published in the Federal Register, and the NAB is expected to be among them. The trade association has vehemently opposed geotargeting, challenging it on both technical and business grounds. 

[Read more of Radio World’s extensive geo-targeting coverage here]