Frequently Asked Questions About
Low Power FM Radio
1) What is low power FM radio?
Low Power FM (LPFM) refers to a new FM radio service authorized by the FCC. The new service will consist of 100-watt stations, which will serve areas with a radius of approximately 3.5 miles, and 10-watt stations, which would serve areas with a radius of approximately 1-2 miles. Currently, in most circumstances, the smallest class of commercial FM radio stations will be licensed only where they could operate at a power of 6000 watts without causing interference at the selected location and channel, although in some circumstances stations may be permitted to go on the air with much less power.
2) Will low power stations interfere with existing broadcast signals?
In order to prevent interference with existing broadcast stations, these new stations will be geographically spaced from existing stations on the same (co-channel) channel, the next (first adjacent channel) channel, and the channel two channels away (second adjacent channel). In a change from general practice, the new stations will not be geographically separated from stations three channels away (third adjacent channel). For example, under the rules applicable to existing full power stations, where there is a station operating at 93.5 mHz, there is currently no station in the same geographic area on 93.7 (the first adjacent channel), 93.9 (the second adjacent channel) or 94.1 (the third adjacent channel). The new rules adopted for LPFM would allow a new, LPFM station to be licensed on the third adjacent channel, or 94.1 without regard to separation from the full power station. Having been persuaded by the engineering data and tests submitted in the proceeding that 10 watt and 100 watt LPFM stations will not cause unacceptable levels of interference to existing radio stations separated by 3 channels, the Commission did not impose the 3rd adjacent channel separation requirements generally required of full power licensees.
3) Who will be eligible to be licensed to operate low power FM stations?
The LPFM service is a noncommercial radio service. Eligible licensees will be noncommercial government or private educational organizations, associations or entities, and government or non-profit entities providing local public safety or transportation services. Individuals will not be eligible to apply for LPFM stations.
To foster local ownership and diversity, during the two years of LPFM license eligibility, licensees will be limited to local entities that are physically headquartered, or have a campus, or have 75% of their board members residing within 10 miles of the station. In addition, during the first two years, no entity may own more than one LPFM station in any community. In order to create opportunities for new voices on the airwaves, no existing broadcaster or other media entity subject to our ownership rules will be eligible for an LPFM station.
4) How do I apply for a low power station? How long can I keep it?
The 50 states and other jurisdictions have been divided into 5 groups and the FCC will accept applications for stations in one group at a time. The first group consists of Alaska, California, District of Columbia, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Mariana Islands, Maryland, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Utah. The remaining groupings are listed in a New Release of March 27, 2000, and their applications will be accepted in approximately three-month intervals.
The FCC will begin accepting applications for new LPFM stations in the first group of states and jurisdictions in a few months. When information is available on when and how to apply for a LPFM station, it will be released in a Public Notice and will be posted on the Commission’s website at www.fcc.gov/lpfm or available by phone from the FCC at 1-888-CALL-FCC. For each geographical grouping, the FCC will issue a Public Notice at least 30 days prior to the date LPFM applications will first be accepted. The Public Notice will designate a 5-day filing window during which applicants will be permitted to file either electronically or by paper applications. All applications filed during the window will be considered to be filed at the same time.
Like other radio station licenses, LPFM licenses will be awarded for eight year, renewable license terms.
5) How would the Commission resolve competing applications for the same frequency?
Applications that request the same frequency in the same community, and thus are mutually exclusive, will be resolved through a selection process which awards applicants one point each for (1) showing a community presence of at least two years prior to the application, (2) pledging to operate at least 12 hours daily, and (3) pledging to locally originate at least eight hours of programming daily. Where the competing applicants have the same number of points, time sharing proposals, in which applicants share a given frequency, will be encouraged. Where ties have not been resolved, a group of up to eight mutually exclusive applicants will be awarded successive license terms of at least one year each. Unlike other LPFM licenses, which will be renewable at the end of each eight-year license term, these shared licenses will not be renewable.
6) What will it cost to construct and operate a low power FM station?
The construction and operating costs of a LPFM radio station can vary widely, depending on the type and quality of studio and broadcasting equipment used, as well as by whether a tower may be required. The basic transmitting equipment and antenna are modestly priced. More information on the availability and costs of radio equipment is available from a variety of sources on the internet and electronics periodicals.
7) How many low power radio stations does the FCC expect it could license?
The FCC does not have a calculation of how many stations may be licensed nationwide; however, based upon a review of the number of stations that may be licensed in a sample of 60 cities, we believe that there may be 1000 or more 100 watt LPFM stations, as well as 10 watt LPFM stations.
8) Why do I need a license to broadcast?
Section 301 of the Communications Act (47 U.S.C. §301) requires that the Federal Communications Commission grant licenses for the use of the broadcast spectrum. The licensing process allows the FCC to provide for a fair and equitable distribution of radio broadcast service, to prevent interference, and maintain the technical integrity of the radio spectrum in order to best serve the public. The FCC’s licensing scheme additionally prevents broadcast operations which may cause interference with other spectrum-based services, and provides a means of ensuring that radio station towers and operations do not affect the safety of the nation's air travel.
9) What is a radio "pirate"?
"Pirate" is a term often applied to operators of illegal unlicensed broadcast stations. Because they are operating in violation of the law, unlicensed operators can be subjected to fines, loss of equipment, or even imprisonment.
10) Will pirates be eligible for LPFM licenses?
Eligible licensees will be subject to the same character qualifications as currently applied to full power licensees. Because some entities that broadcast without a license in the past may have operated based on ignorance or misinformation, such parties may apply for LPFM licenses if they certify that they promptly ceased unlicensed operation when advised by the Commission to do so, or voluntarily ceased operations by February 26, 1999. Entities who continued illegal broadcasting are ineligible for any broadcast license.