Today at 6 PM Eastern Time is the deadline to complete and submit applications for low-power FM licenses. If your group is just now thinking about applying, it’s probably too late to get together everything you need unless you have a qualified radio engineer (and a lot of coffee) at your beck and call.
On Monday Radio World checked in with LPFM support groups and consultants, and found that some procrastinators were still asking for help with just days to go. RW also asked for estimates on the number of applications that might be submitted, and guesses ranged from 5,000 to 11,000.
If your group is about to or already has submitted an application I would suggest that your work is not over yet. Even though it may be months before you hear from the FCC, this is a good time to take the next step of organizing your station.
One great option is to put together an internet broadcast now. The tools available for internet broadcasting are more accessible and easier to use than they were during the last LPFM window a decade ago. Furthermore, an internet broadcast gives your staff and volunteers a place to put positive and constructive energy while you wait for word from the FCC.
In the decades before internet radio it was common for groups waiting to hear from the Commission about full-power noncommercial applications to find other ways to broadcast, too. Stations often got their start as the soundtrack for public access cable TV stations, ran a carrier current to local colleges or schools, or even simply “broadcast” via a centrally located PA system.
These “training wheels” broadcasts were particularly important because the processes of the FCC could move much more slowly in the pre-digital age, with some groups waiting years, not months, for approval. By comparison today’s LPFM hopefuls have both a shorter wait and a much better prep option with internet broadcasting.
Understandably, some folks may be hesitant to risk putting the cart before the horse, generating excitement for a station that still may not get an actual broadcast license. On the other hand, there are groups like Louisville’s ARTxFM that already have thriving internet stations are now applying for LPFMs. At this time a new broadcast station really can’t afford not to have a strong internet presence in the first place. Why not get a head start?
If in the worst case scenario your group’s LPFM license doesn’t come through, you may just end up with a strong internet station anyway. Plus, having a strong organization and staff of programmers may put your group in the position to work with groups who have successful applications, but might need some help getting off the ground.
While completing an LPFM application is easier than one for a full-power license, it still requires a great deal of organizing effort to bring together groups and stakeholders. Don’t let that energy go on ice while the Commission does its business.
If one side-effect of this LPFM window is that we end up with even more community-oriented internet stations, too, then I’d say it’s all worth it.