On April 2, 2024, the FCC released a Report and Order (“R&O”) and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“FNPRM”) adopting rule changes that will allow FM booster stations to originate up to three minutes of programming per hour.  Prior to adopting the changes, the FCC generally defined a booster as a “fill-in” translator that is restricted to retransmission of the primary station’s existing broadcast on the primary station’s frequency.  Now, the FCC has adopted an additional definition for “program originating FM booster stations.”  These boosters serve primarily as a fill-in station but originate programming on a limited basis.   

The changes provide flexibility for stations to use boosters to transmit hyper-local advertising and programming, independent of the signal of their primary station.  A booster could, for example, air geo-targeted advertising and programming that is specific to a particular portion of the primary station’s signal contour. 

Pending adoption and final implementation of licensing, processing, and service rules, licensed broadcast stations may now apply for a renewable, one-year experimental authorization to originate programming over an FM booster.  The FCC is seeking comment on proposed processing, licensing, and service rules for boosters.  

Proposed Processing, Licensing, and Service Rules 

Applications for New Boosters, Notifications for Licensed Boosters 

The FCC proposed processing new booster applications, whether used as fill-in stations or for program origination, on a first-come/first-served basis under existing application procedures.  The Commission is specifically requesting comment on how it should resolve or select between mutually exclusive FM booster applications. 

Under the proposed rules, licensees of existing boosters would not need to file a separate application to begin program origination.  Instead, licensees would simply file with the FCC’s  Licensing and Management System (LMS) system a formal notification at least 15 days prior to commencing program origination.  Licensees would likewise need to file an LMS notification at least 30 days after suspending operations.  The proposed rules also require that a booster suspend operations anytime that its primary station is not broadcasting. 

In addition, the FCC is seeking comment on its proposal to limit each full-service FM station to 25 program originating boosters. 


With respect to interference, the FCC proposed to eliminate a rule that bars boosters from causing any interference to the primary station’s signal within the boundaries of the primary station’s community of license.  Instead, the FCC would maintain the general requirement that a booster cause no more than  limited interference to its primary station’s signal. 

The Commission noted that the existing rule for claims of predicted interference did not apply to booster stations.  The FCC is seeking comment on whether the rules should include a mechanism to address predicted interference while a booster’s FCC construction permit is pending.   

The Commission is also requesting comment on whether it should require broadcasters to synchronize the signal of its program-originating booster with the signal of its primary FM station.  This would be to prevent self-interference. The FCC is similarly seeking input on whether codifying technical requirements for synchronization could impose unnecessary burdens on broadcasters. 

EAS and Political File Rules 

Program-originating boosters would be required to receive and broadcast all emergency alerts in the same manner as their primary stations.  In light of that requirement, the FCC is seeking comment on whether it should nevertheless require FM primary stations to notify all EAS participants monitoring the primary station that its booster originates programming.  The FCC is also seeking comment on whether it should implement any additional EAS rules specific to program-originating boosters. 

Broadcasters that accept advertising on a booster would be required to maintain a political folder for the booster within the same online political file as its primary station.  The FCC is seeking comment on these proposed rules. 


Finally, the FNPRM proposed prohibiting program-originating boosters from broadcasting content that is already prohibited on its primary station.  For example, the program-originating booster of a noncommercial educational primary station would be prohibited from transmitting commercial broadcasts.  But noncommercial educational booster stations would be allowed to accept underwriting announcements targeted to specific areas.  

Comments in this proceeding will be due 30 days from Federal Register publication of the NPRM, and reply comments will be due 60 days after such Federal Register publication. 

For more information or to discuss commenting on any of these proposed rules, please contact your attorney at Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth.