Roberts Radio Broadcasting in Mississippi supports the idea of FM geo-targeting, and said it will ask the Federal Communications Commission to let it demo the technology.
Geo-targeting via FM boosters is being pushed by technology company GeoBroadcast Solutions, which has asked for an FCC rule change to allow it but has come up against opposition from the National Association of Broadcasters and several large radio groups.
Coming to the aid of GBS, Roberts Radio said it wants to demo the technology on its station WRBJ at 97.7 MHz. The station is in Brandon and serves Jackson.
Its participation is notable in part because it is an urban-formatted station led by African American entrepreneur Steven C. Roberts, board member of the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council and the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters.
Those two organizations have expressed support for geo-targeting and have said it will help minority- and women-owned groups.
“WRBJ reaches the African-American community, with many small businesses that cannot currently afford to pay for an entire metro signal but desire to hyper-target zones within the station’s signal coverage,” the company stated in a press release.
“This will be the fifth Experimental Permit requested to demonstrate the technology and the third Experimental Permit request using the same booster configuration. The requested demo will build and operate up to five new on-channel FM boosters, and to originate limited programming on these boosters for 90 days.”
It said it wants to try targeting broadcasts “to appeal to specific diverse audiences encompassed within the boosters’ service areas without creating harmful interference to any broadcaster.”
The debate over the technology has been playing out in publicly filed comments in an FCC open proceeding.
The NAB expressed its opposition citing both technical and business concerns. GBS countered that it has solid technical data and that there’s no reason to think its proposal would cause a huge drop in ad rates or a rise in “redlining” certain parts of a given market.
According to the press release, Steven Roberts has told the FCC, “As a station owner and minority broadcaster in a market filled with stations owned by media conglomerates, my business is at a constant disadvantage” and that he “totally disagreed” with NAB’s concerns about “unintended consequences” for minority broadcasters. “I find NAB’s naked speculation disturbing.”
FM boosters in the United States are currently required to broadcast nothing but the signal of their associated primary stations. GBS wants to offer stations the ability to use custom FM booster networks to carry three minutes of unique content of specific interest to subsections of a given station’s coverage area, including unique commercials, news and weather.