Update Nov. 21, 2013: The FCC actually released the official application total earlier than expected. See our updated report for details: Official count of LPFM applications lower than some expectations
There’s been a bit of speculation amongst low-power FM community radio supporters since the licensing window closed last Friday. With all the energy and excitement that went into mobilizing and organizing LPFM applicants, it’s understandable that folks want to know how many applications were submitted and when the FCC will start assigning construction permits.
In an email the FCC’s Audio Division Chief Peter Doyle tells me that they plan to announce the number of filings in “approximately one week” from today. After that he says his division will begin the “rapid processing of singleton applications.”
“Singleton” applications are those for which is there is no competing application for the same frequency. Because the Commission does not need to compare and contrast competing applications, it can process these quickly. FCC staff just need to judge these applications on their technical merits and whether or not the applicant meets the baseline requirements.
While we will hear the FCC’s official application stats soon, there are some unofficial estimates we can look to in the meantime. Though, at present, it’s a bit like guessing the number of marbles in an opaque jar that’s 300 yards away.
The Prometheus Radio Project says its staff worked “one-on-one with over 300 groups to help them submit applications.” Additionally, the group assisted over 1,000 groups via its web resources and free webinars.
Common Frequency’s treasurer Jeff Shaw says that with the intense push to assist applicants in filing on time, “things were so crazy that we haven’t had time to recover yet.” So he cautions that his counts are likely incomplete. Shaw says he “personally submitted over 50” applications, and that LPFM pioneer Pete Tridish lent a hand in submitting another 15, making for a total of at least 65 applications.
John Broomall says his group, Christian Community Broadcasters, helped to file “about 50.” He says his number is approximate because the group “helped a couple applicants where CCB’s name does not show up.” Broomall also said that in his experience it was easier to find frequencies near a major city’s center rather than in exurbs further out where “potential applicants are caught in the ‘cross-fire’ between two major markets.” He has written up his own rundown of LPFM application estimates available at the CCB website. Broomall told Radio World that he believes as many as 10,000 applications have been filed.
REC Networks helped “about 60” applicants, according to Michi Eyre. And, finally, Leo Ashcraft of Nexus Broadcast told Radio World last week, before the application window closed, that his group was working with about 200 applicants.
So, if you add up these reports, you end up with at least 1,675 applications. It is certainly a plausible number, and likely very much on the low end. That’s because there are dozens of other independent firms, attorneys and engineers also assisting LPFM applicants, in addition to the applicants who decided to go it on their own.
It’s also important to recognize that the number of applications do not necessarily reflect how many stations will be licensed. A percentage of all applications will be defective from the start, meaning that the engineering is faulty or the group applying isn’t even qualified. Additionally, there will be competing applications for a single frequency that will need to be resolved. That said, once the FCC starts processing the singleton applications we’ll have a better idea of how many new LPFM stations we might see.