Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


U.S. Black Chambers Asks Starks to Push for Geotargeting Approval

“The time has come for the FCC to finish its work here”

An organization that advocates for Black businesses is asking FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks to push the commission to complete the proceeding that would allow geotargeting on FM boosters.

“The time has come for the FCC to finish its work here,” U.S. Black Chambers Inc. wrote in a letter to Starks.

USBC provides advocacy and resources for African American Chambers of Commerce and business organizations. Its President Ron Busby Sr. told Starks, “We know that diversity in broadcasting is a critical initiative of yours … We urge you, as part of that effort, to place a high priority on completing the FCC’s proceeding to permit FM radio stations to geotarget.”

He pointed out that U.S. Black Chambers had originally expressed support three years ago this month, along with a number of other civil rights and minority organizations.

Geotargeting has been proposed by technology company GeoBroadcast Solutions. It would allow FM stations to broadcast unique content for several minutes per hour on localized booster antennas. GBS said this would give stations the ability to provide hyper-local content including commercials, weather, traffic and emergency information. Boosters currently may not broadcast anything other than what is being carried by their associated main FM stations.

GBS has actively sought the support of minority advocacy organizations for its technology. It had won endorsements from, among others, the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB) and the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC). But NABOB then reversed itself on that last fall without comment.

“Radio is a local asset, and typically best operated by those with a commitment to, and understanding of, the local community,” Busby wrote to Starks. “Many black entrepreneurs have started their careers in media through the radio sector. But success in radio, especially for those station owners that do not operate at a national level, is harder to come by these days.”

Busby repeated the argument that has been advanced by other advocates that radio is the only major medium that is barred from geotargeting its audience due to what he caleld an artifact of FCC rules.

He said this especially harms Black-owned station groups. Also, “Most minority-owned stations are located in large and medium-sized diverse metropolitan areas, which include listeners which speak a multitude of languages. Geotargeting, for only a few minutes per programming hour, can enable station owners to reach these listeners with critical emergency information and other advertising opportunities.”

The National Association of Broadcasters has been loudly vocal in opposition to geotargeting.  It believes the change could undermine the very business model of commercial U.S. radio, driving ad rates and revenues down. NAB thinks it could “lead to cannibalization” among stations, including minority-owned ones; that it could lead to listener confusion; and that it might result in “red-lining” of certain listeners.

NAB and GBS engaged in a round of acrimonious finger-pointing about endorsements and about the founder of GBS in the second half of 2022. Read those stories and more of our past coverage of the issue.