20-401: REC files comments in Geotargeting FNPRM

REC Networks has filed comments in the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the “Program Originating FM Boosters” proceeding, also known as “geo-targeting”.

In our comments, we touched on various issues including a need for a new co-channel protection requirement from proposed FM boosters to other primary and secondary facilities, including FM translators and LPFM stations.  Currently, FM boosters only need to provide protection on first-adjacent channels. 

On this issue, we had restated our position that FM boosters are an equal status to LPFM and FM translator stations and in cases where a full-service FM station has moved locations or upgraded after the secondary facility was authorized could create an issue where a booster’s interfering contour could overlap into the service contour of the existing station thus resulting in harmful interference. 

In their defense, the FCC stated that “community need” as required by the Local Community Radio Act was fulfilled by providing a new hyper-local method of providing commercials and other information to a very localized area.  The FCC also set a cap of 25 FM boosters, citing the LCRA.

With that, REC has changed their LCRA position on this proceeding based on those past Commission actions in this proceeding.  In order to fulfill the “community need” requirement for the LCRA, REC is now stating that the operations of the existing LPFM and translators are fulfilling a community need, especially if the station was first licensed in or after 2011 when the LCRA was enacted and that the community needs of those LPFM and translator stations cannot be negated by any perceived community need provided by a geo-targeted booster.  REC also stated that since LPFM, translators and boosters are “equal in status” under the LCRA, FM boosters cannot make a change that could cause a “soft displacement” (one that causes interference and not legal displacement) and would result in the LPFM or translator station expending resources to make an engineering claim of interference.  Our proposed “up front” rule would prevent this. 

While REC disagrees with the FCC’s LCRA findings, we will not be challenging them, but instead, demanding the “up front” co-channel protection.  As REC noted, the presence of a geo-targeted booster will not preclude future LPFM or FM translator facilities as protections are based on the service contour of the primary station, which the FM booster’s service contour must be fully inside of.  Without a co-channel protection from FM boosters, existing LPFMs and translators could be subject to future interference from these new facilities.

REC is also concerned with program originating boosters being used by FM stations that are designated monitoring assignments in the Emergency Alert System.  REC has asked for a moratorium of 3 years on allowing these specific stations from engaging in geo-targeted operation in order to allow for more time for real-world use of EAS alerts from stations that “Participating National” EAS participants and are not used in monitoring assignments.

In comments, REC also stated that:

  • A codified requirement for synchronization is not required.  It should be up to the engineer to determine the synchronization needs for the booster operation.  Not all FM boosters need it, citing KWSV-LP.
  • FM boosters seeking to do program origination should file a notification in LMS within 10 days of commencing operation similar to HD Radio digital notifications.
  • The proposed changes to §73.801 should not be done.  This rule lists other rules that apply to LPFM stations and the FCC was proposing to add some, but not all EAS rules to this section.  REC stated that such a change will cause confusion.  We proposed to keep §73.801 limited to cross references that are within Part 73 including a new cross-reference to Subpart C for Digital Audio Broadcasting.
  • REC also asked for some non-substantive changes to the Subpart G LPFM Rules to clear out some duplicative language introduced in the original geo-targeting Report and Order and to fix a couple of other long-requested clarifications in the rules.

Reply comments in MB Docket 20-401 are due on Monday, June 17, 2024.