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About Low Power FM

Updated December 4, 2021

Summary

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.

In October 2020 the FCC has announced that a third LPFM licensing window will be opened. This will likely happen in 2022 and is the next opportunity to obtain a low-power FM broadcasting license.

We have assembled this page to provide basic information about LPFM along with important news and background. While originally written prior to the 2013 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: editors@radiosurvivor.com.

Scroll down to learn more about LPFM, find out how to apply, see Radio Survivor’s LPFM coverage, find a list of LPFM radio stations, and access additional resources.


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Contents:

1. What is Low-Power FM (LPFM)?

2. How do I apply for an LPFM license?

3. How to get help with an LPFM license

4. LPFM Coverage Highlights from Radio Survivor

5. Where to find a list of LPFM radio stations?

6. Additional LPFM Resources

1. What is Low-Power FM (LPFM)?

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.

2. How do I apply for an LPFM license?

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. A third LPFM application window is anticipated to open in 2022. The exact dates have not been announced by the FCC.

For organizations interested in pursuing a low-power FM license, 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.

You can find a frequency using the free RFree software that will also allow an engineer or a group like Common Frequency or the Prometheus Radio Project to assist you more easily. You also can make a search online using REC Networks’ myLPFM tool.

Then you can view the archive of the FCC’s Aug. 20, 2013 webinar on how to apply for an LPFM license. Follow along with the PDF of Form 318. Though this webinar is specifically for the 2013 window, which is now closed, the basics should still be useful to prepare for the anticipated 2022 window. Once that window is officially announced, the FCC will likely hold a new webinar that will be important to watch.

3. How to get help with an LPFM license

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 and should be able to assist in future licensing windows. They also may be able to help 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.

For access to ongoing support resources LPFM community stations may join the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, which offers memberships on a sliding scale.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Grassroots Radio Coalition is a loose-knit group of community broadcasters, including many new LPFM stations. A listserv and the Grassroots Radio Conference provide opportunities for support and information. We’ve covered several GRC events on Radio Survivor.

4. LPFM Coverage Highlights from Radio Survivor

All LPFM coverage on Radio Survivor

5. List of LPFM Radio Stations

As of January, 2018, there are just over 2,300 licensed low power FM radio stations in the United States, with a little over 2,000 on the air. LPFM Database has a complete list of these stations, categorized by state.

On Radio Survivor, we also have profiles of a number of LPFM radio stations (some before they launched over FM) from Jennifer Waits’ Spinning Indie radio station field trip series, including the following tours from 2012 to 2017:

Field Trip #34: WRFU in Urbana, Illinois

Field Trip #72: KUSF-in-Exile/San Francisco Community Radio (launching LPFM in 2018)

Field Trip #73: UWave at University of Washington in Bothell, Washington (turned back its LPFM permit)

Field Trip #74: Hollow Earth Radio in Seattle, Washington

Field Trip #75: KXSU at Seattle University in Seattle, Washington

Field Trip #80: WRVG-LP at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky

Field Trip #82: 9th Floor Radio at Laney College in Oakland, California

Field Trip #83: ARTxFM in Louisville, Kentucky

Field Trip #103: WOWD-LP Takoma Radio in Takoma Park, Maryland

Field Trip #104: WERA-LP Radio Arlington in Arlington, Virginia

Field Trip #105: CHIRP FM in Chicago, Illinois

Field Trip #107: KOMF-LP Open Media Foundation in Denver, Colorado

Field Trip #118: KPSQ-LP in Fayetteville, Arkansas

Field Trip #119: KUOZ-LP at University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas

Field Trip #121: KUHS-LP in Hot Springs, Arkansas

Field Trip #124: WRIR-LP Richmond Independent Radio in Richmond, Virginia

Field Trip #130: WNUW-LP at Neumann University in Aston, Pennsylvania

Field Trip #132: WXTJ-LP at University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia

Field Trip #138: WPPM-LP PhillyCAM in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Field Trip #140: KLLG-LP in Willits, California

6. Additional LPFM Resources

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