Updated March 17, 2016
Low-Power FM (LPFM) is a class of non-commercial FM station intended for non-profit groups to create non-commercial stations that are both inexpensive to build and operate. Because of their low power levels they serve limited geographic areas and are ideal for serving small and underserved communities.
The second window to apply for an LPFM license closed on Friday, November 15, 2013. The FCC announced that 2,816 applications were filed during that window.
The FCC started to process applications and grant construction permits for new stations on January 15, 2014. Most groups with qualifying applications without any competition for a frequency (so-called “singleton” applications) have heard from the FCC. The Commission has identified all frequencies for which there are competing applications (MX groups) in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. The vast majority of these MX groups have been resolved, where either a winning applicant has been chosen, two or more applicants have entered into a time sharing agreement, or applicants were able to successfully amend their applications to move to an open frequency.
As of January 2016 More than 1,800 LPFM construction permits have been issued. You can monitor the latest news in our LPFM Watch column on Thursdays.
No additional LPFM license opportunities have been scheduled. It is not likely that a third LPFM window will be opened soon, if at all.
We have assembled this page to provide basic information about LPFM along with important news and background. While originally written prior to the last LPFM window, we continue to revise the page to be of use to current LPFM construction permit or license holders, as well as anyone interested in low-power FM radio. Please don’t hesitate to email us with any questions you may have: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Low-power FM is a class of non-commercial broadcast radio service in the US created by the FCC to provide an inexpensive method for non-profit groups to get on the air. The service was established in 2000 after significant pressure and lobbying by advocates, including religious groups like the United Church of Christ, and media justice groups like the Prometheus Radio Project.
Thus far the FCC has only issued licenses for LPFM stations operating between 50 and 100 watts of power (LP100). Although the original order also contained a provision for lower-powered 10-watt stations (LP10), the FCC decided in 2013 that it would not offer this class of license after all, determining that such stations would not be economically sustainable.
To get a LPFM station a group must obtain a license from the FCC. Applications for licenses may only be submitted during “windows” scheduled by the Commission. The first LPFM licensing window occurred between May 2000 and May 2001, with each state assigned a one-month window in that period for submitted applications.
The second LPFM application window closed on November 15, 2013 and another window is not anticipated in the near future.
The following recommendations were made prior to the start of the 2013 licensing window, which we are keeping for reference purposes:
The first thing you will want to do is to find an open frequency in your area. You will have to tell the FCC what frequency you would like, and it must be available for an LPFM station. The FCC will not assign a frequency to you.
Because the LPFM licensing window is closed, there is no help to obtain a new license at this time.
The following groups provided assistance to LPFM applicants during the 2013 application window. Now they may be able to assist groups that have LPFM construction permits or licenses with questions about their permits and licenses, or about other related issues. However, limited resources or other constraints may restrict how much assistance they are able to provide.
- The Prometheus Radio Project was instrumental in advocating for and assisting the FCC in creating LPFM. Prometheus can provide support to non-profit groups looking to start low-power community radio stations in a variety of ways.
- Common Frequency has been supporting the launch of grassroots stations since 2006. The group can aid applicants in obtaining construction permits with legal and engineering assistance.
- Brown Paper Tickets is providing assistance to LPFM applicants in the Seattle/King County area of Washington state.
- Radio Spark is an online community for LPFM applicants and supporters.
- Intercollegiate Broadcast System and College Broadcasters Inc. will each help member schools to apply for LPFM licenses. Your school don’t have to be licensed broadcaster to join either group.
- Christian Community Broadcasters will assist churches, ministries, schools, and other community groups in applying for LPFM licenses and building stations.
- Sound Advice: 5 Ways New LPFMs Can Build Community Support Today
- 2015 in Review: LPFM Made it Community Radio’s Biggest Leap Forward
- New LPFMs: Don’t Let DJs Own Their Time Slots; Be Ready to Fire the Bad Ones
- LPFM Watch: REC Proposes LPFM Power Increase to 250 watts… (4/23/15)
- LPFM News: A Good Start to 2015
- 2014: A Pivotal Year for LPFM (2014 year in review article)
- LPFM Watch: With Over 200 Applications Granted, the Sustainability Discussion Starts Now
- Newly Granted College and High School LPFMs are the Next Wave of Student Broadcasters
- FCC Grants 107 LPFM Applications, More Oppositions Filed
- Official count of LPFM applications lower than some expectations
- FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel champions radio and LPFM to the Future of Music Summit
- Poof!? Why are Low Power FM stations vanishing?
- FCC reaffirms that there will be no 10-watt LPFM stations
- Groups making post-shutdown plans for LPFM support
- FCC says hundreds of nonprofits have started their LPFM applications, ready for more
- LPFMs beware: FCC cites California company for unapproved transmitters
- Don’t be discouraged – We dispel 2 LPFM myths
- Second Low Power FM filing window? Don’t count on it
- 10 Reasons Why College Radio Stations Should Apply for LPFM Licenses
- College Radio and LPFM – An Archive of Radio Survivor’s First Twitter Chat
- The FCC Low Power FM application: a screen shot tour
- Resources for College Radio Stations Applying for LPFM licenses
- FCC announces updated procedures for Low Power FM window
- Democracy Now on “the largest expansion of community radio in US history”
- Are you “bona fide”? Eight fun factoids from the FCC’s Low Power FM decision
- FCC’s LPFM order will make 2013 a good year for community radio
- FCC acts to preserve space for new low power community radio stations
- LPFM expansion: it’s official!
- FCC Awards Full-Power Licenses to 5 LPFMs, Plus 52 More Orgs
- The FCC’s LPFM page
- The FCC’s August 20, 2013 Webinar on LPFM
- Resources and Tools for LPFM from Prometheus Radio Project.
- Online training webinars from Prometheus Radio Project.
- myLPFM.com helps you find a LPFM-ready frequency in your city or town
- RFree is free and open software for community radio applicants and the engineers who support them. RFree helps users find available channels and gather information for their FCC applications. (PDF User’s Guide)
- DIYmedia.net – 55 Days and Counting: Informative Events for LPFM Applicants
- How To Launch Your Own Low Power FM Station – The Guidebook from Free Press and Prometheus Radio Project [PDF]
- Brown Paper Ticket’s guide to finding public agency funding [PDF].
- REC Networks is providing a running list of newly granted LPFM applications from the 2013 filing window
- REC Networks is tracking amendments filed during the MX Settlement Windows for the Western States, for the Midwest and East Coast, and for the South
- REC Networks outlines six different segments of LPFMs
- List of expiring LPFM construction permits