This week Radio World published an article about new LPFM grantees who are turning in their construction permits to the FCC because of any number of problems that interfere with getting a station on air. Funding–or the lack of it–seems to be a primary reason for many groups to throw in the towel.
Of course it’s a shame if any group with a construction permit for a new low-power station has to give up on its quest for a station. It’s all the more regrettable because there are a myriad of ways to avoid this. The most significant of these is to apply for an extension from the FCC, which can be an 18-month lifeline giving a group more time to assemble the necessary resources.
Looking at it more globally, when an LPFM grantee turns in a construction permit, that frequency doesn’t get reassigned to another applicant. There is no queue for LPFM licenses. Instead that frequency simply goes unused–at least for the moment.
While it could come up for assignment in a future low-power licensing window–that has not been scheduled and may never come–the more likely scenario is that the frequency will get snapped up for an FM translator. That translator could be for a public or community station, although large Christian broadcasters are very well organized and funded to snarf up translators to link them up to massive satellite networks. If the frequency is north of 92 MHz then the translator could be for a commercial station.
Therefore, one could make the argument that it’s important for community radio, as a whole, for as many LPFMs to hold on to their construction permits as possible. In order for this to happen, grantees have to be able to send up a signal flare when they’re coming close to defaulting… and there has to be help available to see that flare.
I can’t guarantee that this help is there. Yet, I do know that LPFM advocates exist and know each other. I also know that we in community radio are stronger together than we are split apart. In terms of pure numbers, there are more creative ideas amongst 3 dozen people than amongst 2 or 3.
So let this be my strong encouragement to LPFM applicants to send up that signal flare if your ability to complete your station seems in danger. If you’re on Facebook there’s an LPFM Solidarity group that you can request to join. There are also a number of support and advocacy groups who may be able to assist, or direct you to help. Or, you can send us at Radio Survivor an email. I can’t guarantee that we can directly assist. But because information is power, we may be able at least to advise on next steps and connect you to someone who may be of additional help.
Despite the alarm bells sounded by some, I don’t think LPFM faces any sort of massive crisis of stations turning in construction permits or going under. Still, I want any group feeling the pinch to have somewhere to turn and for community radio to be in the position to extend some mutual aid. That’s what community means.