FCC Allows FM Booster Station “Geocasting”

Posted on April 30th, 2024 by

Just over four years after the original petition for rulemaking was filed in March 2020, the FCC agreed in early April 2024 to allow FM booster stations to broadcast 3 minutes of programming per hour that is different from their primary station.  The new policy will allow targeted advertising or programming in the particular part of the primary station’s coverage area where the booster is authorized.

The specific application and processing rules for program-originating FM booster stations are not yet in place, and in the same action, the FCC initiated a further notice of proposed rulemaking to decide how to authorize new FM booster stations.  The notice proposes to allow applications for new program-originating FM booster stations on a first-come, first-served basis, but requests comment on how to resolve mutually-exclusive applications.  The FCC also proposes allowing existing FM booster stations to begin program origination by filing a formal notification at least 15 days in advance, and halt program origination via a notification filed at least 30 days after suspending operations.  Program originating FM boosters would not be allowed to operate when their primary station is not operating.  The FCC also wants input on its proposal to limit each full power FM station to only 25 program originating boosters.

Further comments are requested on the FCC’s proposal to allow program-originating FM booster stations to cause “limited” interference to its primary station, on whether the booster station’s signal must be synchronized with the primary station, on EAS alerts retransmission requirements, on a proposal to require a booster station to maintain a political folder in the primary station’s online public file for any advertising exclusively accepted and aired on the booster station, and on whether program-originating boosters should be prohibited from airing content prohibited on the primary station (i.e., a noncommercial primary station airing commercial content on a booster).

Comments are due May 16 and reply comments by June 17.