FCC Asks for Comments on Proposal to Allow FM Translators and Boosters to Originate Programming

A group of radio broadcasters has asked the FCC to allow FM translators and boosters to originate a significant amount of programming, and the FCC is seeking comments on the proposal through July 23, 2020.

The proposal grows out of an earlier petition by GeoBroadcast Solutions which asked the FCC to allow FM boosters (but not translators) to broadcast limited “geo-targeted content” during a fraction of a broadcast hour. GeoBroadcast has developed technology it says allows for “zoned” broadcast coverage using FM boosters. According to GeoBroadcast, stations could use this technology to air “hyper-local” traffic information, second language programming, and local advertisements. For example, if a traffic accident affects one part of a station’s coverage area but not others, the station could interrupt its regular programming to make listeners in the affected area aware but continue regular programming for listeners in unaffected areas. If an advertiser is interested in reaching only a portion of a station’s service area, the station could provide that option to the advertiser through geo-targeting.

The new proposal by a group called “Broadcasters for Limited Program Origination” (“BLPO”) significantly expands on GeoBroadcast’s proposal. BLPO wants the FCC to allow booster and translator stations to originate large amounts of programming as long as they also rebroadcast their primary stations at least 40 hours per week. Based on a 168 hour broadcast week, this would mean a translator or booster would only need to rebroadcast its primary station for an average of slightly less than six hours per day, and could originate its own programming the rest of the time. Under current FCC rules, boosters and translators can only retransmit the programming of a primary FM or AM station in its entirety, and cannot originate local programming.

BLPO also calls for the “coverage contour” of translators to be extended to the greater of the 45 dBu contour of a primary FM station or a 25-mile radius, rather than to the 60 dBu contour which is the current limit. In support, BLPO cites the FM translator interference rules that now use the 45 dBu contour as the limit within which a station complaining of translator interference can present valid listener complaints.

If you would like to file comments in this proceeding, please contact any attorney in our office.

Categories: Broadcast and Media

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