LPFM Radio 101: Your FCC License is Waiting for You!

After more than ten years of civil disobedience, law suits and public pressure, the Federal Communications Commission agreed to
license non-commercial 10 to 100 watt low power FM radio stations for activist and community groups, among others. It means you can now have access to the airwaves…

The FCC is accepting applications for low power FM (LPFM) licenses in five groups of states over an almost two year period. The FCC has announced that the filing window for Groups 4 and 5 is scheduled to occur on June 11-15, 2001. The filing window for Group 3 LPFM applications has closed.

Window to Open is for proposed facilities in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Guam, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.

The application dates for the first three groups have closed. Group 1: Alaska, California, District of Columbia, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Mariana Islands, Maryland, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah. Group 2: Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, Virginia, Wyoming. (Public Notice July 2000; filing window: August 2000). Group 3: American Samoa, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Missouri, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wisconsin.


Unfortunately Congress passed legislation last month that limits the number of low power radio licenses which the FCC will be able to issue. Initial estimates were that 75-80% of the low power stations would be eliminated. Based on the first list of accepted LPFM license applications (those in Groups 1 and 2 which are not competing with other applications), it looks like the impact may not be quite that great.

From the FCC’s online public notice

The Mass Media Bureau (MMB) announces an application filing window for construction permits for Low Power FM (LPFM) stations in the states and territories listed above. The window will open on June 11, 2001 and close on June 15, 2001.

The Commission established the new LPFM service on January 20, 2000 to create new broadcasting opportunities for locally-based organizations to serve their communities. An LPFM station will serve an area with a radius of approximately 3.5 miles, with a maximum power level of 100 watts.

Background Brief on Low Power FM / Micro Radio

What: After more than ten years of civil disobedience, law suits and public pressure, the Federal Communications Commission agreed to
license non-commercial 10 to 100 watt low power FM radio stations for activist and community groups, among others. It means you can now have access to the airwaves to broadcast your own news, information, community concerns, music and non-commercialized culture, as well as forums and discussions on a wide range of topics not touched by commercial radio, or even non-commercial (but underwritten) NPR. You can do this throughout the FM band.

A LPFM Stations’ broadcast area is based on 1) what space on the FM dial is available, 2) terrain of your area. Audio reach for a 100 watt station can be anywhere from 3 to 15 miles, probably less in metro areas saturated by radio signals, more in the rural areas. The cost of putting a LPFM station on the air can be as little as $2,000.

Why: The commercialized nature of broadcasting in the U.S., made worse by the consolidation of the airwaves to only about 10 media conglomerates in recent years, has homogenized programming formats and eliminated local news and information. Even public radio offers content, often from a mainstream point of view, with national perspectives and little outlet for local communities.

Who: Community groups, Activist Organizations of all types, Union Locals, African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Pacific Asian & Islander, South East Asian, all racial & ethnic groups, language specific communities , migrant farm workers, immigrant & refugee communities, theatre groups, environmentalists, social service organizations Independent musicians & DJs, community leaders, media activists, senior citizens, youth of all ages, civic clubs, libraries, schools & universities, community tutoring for students, reading services for the visually impaired & physically challenged people.

Who Can’t: Current broadcast licenses or parties with interests in other media cable or newspapers are not eligible for LPFM stations.

How: The application for LPFM licenses is fairly easy (at least by government standards) and we can assist you with information, technical expertise, and references to other radio savvy groups. Call us to obtain hard copies of the filing guides or see our website to download the documents.

Terms: LPFM stations will be licensed exclusively to local entities for the first two years. Later, non-local entities will be eligible for licenses. Each licensee organization can own only one station in any given community. Licensees will be subject to the same character qualifications as are currently applied to full power licensees. and will need to comply with FCC broadcast rules and regulations.

What if you apply for the same frequency as other groups? If mutually exclusive (competing) applications are received for LPFM frequencies, the issue will be resolved through the award of points for 1) established local presence of at least two years, 2) propose 12 hours of service, of which 8 hours are locally originated programming. not filled with canned productions and nationally syndicated programs already on the air. 3) 75% of board members live within 10 miles where the LPFM tower will be situated. The point system will encourage
competing applicants to collaborate with others.

Costs: Depending on the sophistication of the technology and the quality of studio and broadcasting equipment used, set-up costs will run
from $2,000 to a max of about $10,000.


  • Check background and how-to-apply documents on our web page and on others linked there.
  • You may want to review the types of applications submitted in the first three windows from at least 30 states to get an idea of the various ways folks are planning to use LPFM: FCC website.
  • Find out if there is a viable frequency in your area. You’ll need to recheck the availability 30 days before you submit application.
  • Organize an LPFM workshop. We can provide or arrange for knowledgeable resource people.
  • Design the infrastructure to enable the station to develop and the programming to be consistent. This means content policies and operating principles.
  • Secure advice and counsel from someone experienced, possibly a communication lawyer, an experienced local radio engineer, and local radio

  • Develop a support base in your community.

For more information on how to apply, please contact the Lawyers Guild Center For Democratic Communication,

or email us at rebeka@media-alliance.org.

You can also call me (Rebeka) at 415.546.6334 x310

Author: Rebeka’s computer

News Service: imc-global mailing list

URL: http://lists.indymedia.org/mailman/listinfo/imc-global

2 responses to “LPFM Radio 101: Your FCC License is Waiting for You!”

  1. Bill Lundstrum Avatar
    Bill Lundstrum

    When will the filing window be excepted by the fcc in missouri for low power radio stations

    Thank you,
    Bill Lundstrum

  2. Lia Friedman Avatar
    Lia Friedman

    Hi Bill,
    This article was written almost 10 years ago. For current info on fcc filings I’d go to a website like http://ask.metafilter.com/.

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