Updated December 4, 2021
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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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. 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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
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 #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)
- 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
- Low Power FM Broadcasting: A Survey Snapshot of the Field (2006 MA Thesis by Phil Goetz)