Local Origination on FM Boosters and Translators Gains Steam

Posted on June 30th, 2020 by

After receiving and inviting preliminary comments on an April 2020 proposal by GeoBroadcast Solutions, LLC to allow FM booster stations to locally originate some programming different from its primary station, comments filed in that proceeding by “Broadcasters for Limited Program Origination,” which also included a petition for rulemaking, have now received a separate file number and docket for comments due no later than July 23, 2020.

That the FCC is taking these proposals seriously and inviting comments suggests some receptivity to rule amendments to allow both FM boosters and FM translators to originate programming.  We note that the latest proposal differs substantially from the first in extending wide origination flexibility to FM translators, and this may be the reason it has received a separate docket number.  The FCC could be considering taking up these two proposed rulemakings separately.

One of the overall justifications for allowing boosters and translators to originate programming is so that radio can compete with local streaming services.  Except for the latest proposal’s suggestion that FM translators be allowed to locate anywhere within the primary station’s 45 dBu contour (instead of the current 60 dBu contour), the rule changes sought would not create interference issues – they are content related – and therefore would not burden the FCC staff.

Our review of the proposals and some of the comments suggests that some relaxation of the current rules is well supported and probably likely.  Radio stations should take the time to review the proposals and consider filing comments.