As we reflect back on 2014, it was an exceptional year for low power FM (LPFM) radio in the United States. Beginning on January 15, 2014, the FCC began granting construction permits to some of the 2,799 groups who submitted applications in the late 2013 filing window and by the end of January, 2014, more than 400 were granted. By the end of 2014, 1,554 non-profits had gotten the nod (see RecNet’s running list), meaning that community radio got a huge boost in 2014. The FCC reported that the highest number of applications came from three states: Texas, California and Florida.
While some applicants have already gotten their new LPFM radio stations up and running (including college radio station KRFH at Humboldt State), others are still working to build their stations. Sadly, some stations have already crashed and burned and we are certainly disheartened by the word that Roots Town Radio in Charleston, West Virginia turned its LPFM license for WXDB-LP back to the FCC in October, 2014. Its permit was granted in February, 2014 and it launched in early September, 2014.
We’ve also seen protests this year about serial filers, most notably Antonio Cesal Guel. The main concern is that these applications are not for legitimate, local non-profits. After a number of groups alerted the FCC to discrepancies in many of the applications prepared by Guel (approximately 245), the FCC began an investigation and issued a Letter of Inquiry in February, 2014. As a result, a number of applications were dismissed (to date, at least 116 have been dismissed). In one case, a party to a Guel-penned application wrote to the FCC to say that he was not actually affiliated with the non-profit (he was listed as the President). As a result, the application was dismissed. To top that off, Guel’s Hispanic Christian Community Network filed for bankruptcy on November 11, which obviously adds to concerns about his LPFM applications.
Every week we’ve been profiling some of the latest LPFM grantees in our LPFM Watch column. The wide array of recipients include churches, municipalities, libraries, schools (including approximately 64 granted to colleges), and a variety of different non-profits focused on the arts, social justice, specific cultural groups and other causes.
As an example of this diversity, in the last few weeks of 2014, applications were granted to Coal Mountain Broadcasting (Saint Albans, WV), Pequenas Ligas Hispanas de New Haven, Inc. (New Haven, CT), Iglesia Casa de Milagros (Seattle, WA), Online Journalism Project, Inc. (New Haven, CT), Neskaya (Franconia, NH), Queen of Peace (Deer Park, WA), Nuestra Gente Community Projects (Toledo, OH), St. Vincent Ferrer Parish (Vallejo, CA), and Kimberling City Adventist Radio (Kimberling City, MO).
It’s been very interesting to see that new LPFMs are being granted in every pocket of the United States, including big cities (Chicago, Philadelphia, Toledo, Sacramento, Seattle, San Francisco, etc.) and small towns.
After granting legit, uncontested applicants, the FCC has been making its way through all of the mutually exclusive groups (MX groups), issuing a series of settlement windows for different geographic regions. The most recent window for the southeast opened last week and the FCC released a list of all of the MX groups in that region. Matthew reported on some of the more interesting-sounding applicants from that group.
Although many applications have been granted, there are still quite a few that are in limbo, as the FCC wades through amendments, petitions to deny, and other legal filings. Some groups have resolved themselves to time-share agreements, whereas others are trying to move frequencies in order to break free of a competitive group.
We look forward to continuing to follow the state of LPFM in 2015 and hope to learn more about the resulting community radio stations as more of them get on the air.
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