FCC to Open LPFM Window on October 15

Author: Rebecca Ellis
Coverage Type: reporting
Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC, 20554, United States

Soon there will be a multitude of new voices on the air. And these new voices have three weeks to line up for their ticket to the airwaves by applying for licenses operate on air. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will open up the next filing window for low-powered FM (LPFM) stations across the country on October 15, 2013. And there is much work to be done to prepare for a possible onslaught of applications, according to FCC Chairwoman Mignon L. Clyburn.

“It ... has been rewarding to work with my colleagues over the past several years in implementing the Local Community Radio Act in a fair, thoughtful, and responsible way,” Chairwoman Clyburn said in a statement. “I extend special thanks to Congressman Michael Doyle (D-PA) and Congressman Lee Terry (R-NE), as well as to Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ), the sponsors of the Local Community Radio Act (LCRA) of 2010. Without their leadership ... the nearing LPFM window would not be possible.”

In 2000, the FCC first authorized the creation of low power FM stations to provide noncommercial, educational, and local groups with the opportunity to provide a community-based radio service. Following a study which found that the interference of these stations on stronger commercial signals would be negligible, the LCRA was signed into law in 2011, repealing the so-called interference-related separation requirements. Under these conditions, low-powered FM radio stations could only apply for an FCC license under the condition that they were at least two clicks away from full-power radio stations and did not cause any interference with them. The repeal of these interference-related restrictions with the passing of the LCRA has since opened up new avenues for greater low-powered presence in urban areas. “I believe that the sustainability of the LPFM service is directly tied to its ability to attract listeners in our urban centers,” Chairwoman Clyburn said.

As for the overall social value of low-powered radio stations, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel cited new opportunities for non-profit organizations, schools, religious organizations, and public safety groups to “gain a footing in the radio business.”

In 2012, Rep Doyle wrote in the Huffington Post about the potential benefits of independent radio stations for towns across the US. “Low-power FM radio stations, like other noncommercial stations, feature a diversity of musical genres, news reporting, and cultural programming that is created and presented by local residents. They will play those catchy mash-ups the neighbor's kid mixed from his parents' old albums… They will cover high school football games and share life-saving emergency response information,” Rep. Doyle wrote.

Chairwoman Clyburn sees LPFM service as a lifeline for farm workers, ethnic and tribal communities, and community service organizations. According to the NAACP, people of color currently make up over 36% of the US population but own just over 7 percent of radio licenses and 3 percent of TV licenses in the United States today. “As a result of media consolidation, 90% of all we see, hear or read comes from a handful of privately owned corporations,” the civil rights organization wrote in a recent press release.

Licensing more low-powered FM stations promises to bring more social and economic diversity to the airwaves. “We can add real diversity to the FM dial. We can make that voice that rises in the air even more local and more interesting,” Commissioner Rosenworcel said.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai encouraged community organizations across the country to take advantage of the LPFM window and expressed optimism that the new stations will enhance diversity and localism on the FM band.

The LPFM application window closes at 6:00 pm EDT on October 29, 2013.


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