FCC OK’s A Bay Area ZoneCasting Field Test


A request has been approved by the FCC that paves the way for the experimental construction and operation of a pair of new co-located, on-channel boosters — placed at two discrete locations for one expressed purpose.

That would be to garner additional data using GeoBroadcast Solutions’ ZoneCasting FM booster system — the technology being pitched to bring geo-targeted ad solutions, and programming, to the world’s oldest form of mass media.

The OK of an experimental FCC permit puts the wheels in motion on a real-life test at a forlorn Class B that was once one of the top Rock stations on the West Coast: KSJO-FM 92.3 in San Jose.

Today, it is owned by Universal Media Access.

And, it airs a multicultural format targeting South Asian and Indian listeners.

According to GeoBroadcast Solutions, the trial is designed demonstrate KSJO’s ability to add localized weather and traffic, news, advertising and EAS tests during short parts of a broadcast hour, and “how seamlessly unrecognizable” it will be to the average listener.

In a letter dated February 8, FCC Audio Division Senior Deputy Chief Jim Bradshaw ruled the proposed experimental operation meets the requirements of Section 5.203 of the Commission’s Rules. “We find that the public interest would be served by the knowledge gained through testing of the ZoneCasting technology,” Bradshaw said.

The test is particularly intriguing as it involves a station with a primary signal contour stretching as far south as Gilroy and Hollister, and as far north as San Francisco International Airport and the Oakland hills. In the car, KSJO’s signal can be heard as far as both the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge, but not in San Francisco’s cavernous areas.

“Our signal reaches a broad section of the Bay Area,” says Universal Media Access President/CEO Bill Saurer.  “We’re always looking for ways to improve the listener experience and are intrigued to see the opportunities ZoneCasting can provide KSJO in the future.

With a booster already in place in Pleasanton, East Bay communities including Hayward, Fremont, San Ramon and Livermore are already ripe for geo-targeted programming.

Now, what could come in the fourth Experimental Permit requested to test this technology and the second Experimental Permit request using the same booster configuration could bring possibilities to reality.

As GeoBroadcast sees it, the requested testing will use a back-to-back booster configuration set up at different locations “near the busy I-680 corridor.”

That points to the Pleasanton facility.

The request is for a period of 90 days.

The cost of the field test will be shouldered by GeoBroadcast.

However, the filing was made through Bert Goldman, President of Goldman Engineering Management, who will install the booster setup.

Oversight and auditing of the trial will be made by Dennis Roberson, President/CEO of Roberson and Associates, a technology and management consulting company to the radio industry.

Goldman has high hopes the Pleasanton booster can prove geo-targeting can be successfully implemented on facilities originally licensed for broadcasting, and not microcasting.

“The KSJO Zonecasting demonstration will prove that ZoneCasting can be very simply implemented, in this case, adding only one booster location and can significantly improve coverage in low signal areas while providing geotargeted programming which can benefit hundreds of thousands of listeners without interference,” Goldman said.

While GeoBroadcast is pitching ZoneCasting technology as a way stations can provide content to better serve their communities by offering hyper-localized news, weather, and emergency alerts, marketers have been clamoring for an addressable advertising solution for radio. This brings the industry closer to that desired goal.

Within 60 days of completion of the experimental operation, KSJO’s owner must file a full report detailing the research, experimentation and results of the testing with the Commission.

Extensions of this authority are not contemplated.

As GeoBroadcast seeks to move forward with the KSJO live test, the FCC’s deadline to file comments on amending Section 74.1231(i) of the Commission’s Rules on FM Broadcast Booster Stations is tomorrow (2/10).

Details are available at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/01/11/2020-28784/fm-broadcast-booster-stations-modernization-of-media-initiative#addresses