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About Low Power FM

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:

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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. 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 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.

You can find a frequency using the free RFree software that will also allow the Prometheus Radio Project to assist you more easily, or you 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.

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. 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.

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

4. LPFM Coverage Highlights from Radio Survivor

All LPFM coverage on Radio Survivor

5. Additional LPFM Resources

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