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Guide

For New Visitors: Finding Information About Radio and Television Stations on the FCC Web Site

The FCC's Web site contains extensive information on broadcast radio and television stations.  For example, users may generate tailored lists of AM, FM, and TV stations, view electronic applications for construction permit or license as well as EEO and ownership reports, locate some historical documents pertaining to radio stations, find mailing addresses, and read a summary on the process of applying for a radio broadcast station.  In this document, we provide short summaries for new users on some repeatedly requested subjects of interest, along with links for further reading or searches.  This does not represent a complete list of information available, but it does provide a place to start your research.  Please bookmark or print this page and use it as a reference.

Contents

  Media Bureau Regulates Radio and Television
  Radio Broadcasting (AM and FM) -- Audio Division
    AM and FM Queries
    How to Apply for a Radio or Television Broadcast Station
    Low Power FM (LPFM) Broadcast Stations (Licensed Service)
    Unlicensed Operation
    Lists of AM and FM Stations
    Programming Format of Radio Stations
       Religious Broadcasting Rumor
  Television Broadcasting -- Video Division
    TV Query
    How to Apply for a Radio or Television Broadcast Station
    Lists of TV Stations
  Finding Information in CDBS
    Station Information
    Application Information
    Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Filings
    Ownership Filings
    Antenna Information
    Download CDBS Database Public Files
    Assignment (sale of station) and Transfer of Control
  Public Notices -- Broadcast Applications, Broadcast Actions, Call Sign Changes
  Petitions for Rulemaking (Tables of Allotments)
  Broadcast Station Totals (Counts)

Media Bureau

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Within the FCC, the Media Bureau is assigned the function of regulating broadcast radio and television.  The Audio Division administers broadcast AM and FM stations.  The Video Division administers digital television broadcasting.

Radio Broadcasting

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Extensive radio broadcast station information may be found on the Audio Division website.
  • AM Query and FM Query allow custom searches by users.  Field searches are additive.  if you search (for example) for call signs starting with "K" in Pennsylvania in the AM Query, you will only get records for 3 stations, not a list of all the AM stations in the state.  If you also change the upper and lower frequency search limits to "1410" in this example, you will only see one station. Three types of output are available -- two "list" outputs, good for large lists with one line per record; one "Query" output, with detailed data (AM and FM) and service area/contour maps (FM only); and two "text" one-line-per-record outputs, suitable for importation into a spreadsheet or other application.
  • How to Apply for a Radio or Television Broadcast Station.  General information about the application process for AM, FM, and TV broadcast stations may be found here.  Interested persons or groups should be aware at the beginning that an application does not guarantee that a construction permit will be granted.  No equipment should be purchased before a construction permit is received.  Application processing fees are required for commercial AM, FM, or TV applications (see the Media Bureau Fee Filing Guide).
  • Low Power FM (LPFM) radio service.  Low power FM stations may be authorized where the required protection is afforded to FM stations and FM translator (rebroadcast) stations.  Power is limited to 100 watts maximum, with a service area approximately 3.5 miles in radius.  These stations are only available to noncommercial educational groups (not individuals) or public safety entities.  These stations cannot be used for commercial operation. Please see the related information on our Low Power Radio Broadcast Stations Page
  • Unlicensed Operation.  Unlicensed operation is generally prohibited, with the exception of some extremely low powered "Part 15" devices which will cover a radius of no more than a maximum radius of a couple of hundred feet.  Even unlicensed operation with such low power as 100 milliwatts (0.1 watt) is prohibited.  DON'T BUY equipment that claims to allow you to set up your own broadcast station.  Penalties for unlicensed operation can be severe (see sample cases).
  • Lists of Radio Stations.  The FCC does not publish lists of radio broadcast stations, as station information changes daily.  Use the AM and FM Queries to generate lists.  For a list of AM and FM radio stations authorized to transmit a digital signal in addition to the standard analog signal, use the following links.  AM | FM ]. 
  • Programming Format.  The FCC does NOT collect information on the programming format (country, rock, jazz, talk, religious, ethnic, etc.) of radio broadcast stations, that information not being necessary for the FCC's regulatory functions.  There are private companies that compile this information, but you may have to pay for it.

    • Religious Broadcasting Rumor.  A false rumor continues to circulate that the FCC is proposing to ban religious broadcasting.  This rumor is often (and erroneously) attributed to Madilyn Murray O'Hare.  A petition (RM-2493) which had requested the Commission to make licensing changes was denied in 1975.  You may read excerpts from that Commission order [ HTML ] or the entire document [ PDF (1.2 MB) ].

Television Broadcasting

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Television broadcast station information may be found on the Video Division website.
  • TV Query allows custom searches by users.  Field searches are additive.  if you search (for example) for call signs starting with "K" in Pennsylvania in the TV Query, you will only get records for 2 stations, not a list of all the TV stations in the state.  If you also change the upper and lower channel limits to "2" in this example, you will only see one station.  Three types of output are available -- two "list" outputs, good for large lists with one line per record; one "Query" output, with detailed data and service area/contour maps; and two "text" one-line-per-record outputs, suitable for importation into a spreadsheet or other application.
  • How to Apply for a Radio or Television Broadcast Station.  General information about the application process for AM, FM, and TV broadcast stations may be found here.  Interested persons or groups should be aware at the beginning that an application does not guarantee that a construction permit will be granted.  No equipment should be purchased before a construction permit is received.  Application processing fees are required for commercial AM, FM, or TV applications (see the Media Bureau Fee Filing Guide).
  • Lists of Television Stations.  The FCC does not publish lists of television broadcast stations, as station information changes daily.  Use the TV Query to generate lists.

Finding Information in CDBS

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The FCC's CDBS database (Consolidated DataBase System) is used to track the filing and completion of broadcast construction permit, license, renewal, ownership, assignment of license (sale of station), transfer of control (change of ownership structure), and EEO applications.  CDBS allows viewing of applications that have been filed electronically with the Commission.

CDBS incorporates data from the earlier BAPS (Broadcast Application Processing System), which was used by the former Mass Media Bureau between 1979 and 1999.  Information about applications filed before (approximately) the year 2000 is generally limited to items such as file numbers, filing dates, grant or dismissal dates.

Getting to CDBS information.  You may retrieve information directly from CDBS from the primary search screen

  • The Station Information search provides limited information about individual broadcast stations, such as service, community of license, mailing address, and, through the Call Sign History link on the returned page, information about any recent call sign changes.
  • The Application Information search provides information about applications filed by broadcast stations.  Types of applications may include construction permit, license, ownership, and renewal applications, as well as older assignment of license or transfer of control application data.  Use the Info link on the returned page to view general information about the application.  When available, you may retrieve a copy of the electronically filed application itself via the Application link on the returned page. 
  • The EEO Filing search provides information about EEO filings with the FCC, including access to electronic filings in 2000 and later.
  • The Ownership Report search provides information about ownership reports filed with the FCC in 1999 or later, including access to electronic filed reports.
  • The Antenna Information search is primarily used by professional broadcast consultants to obtain information about particular FM and TV antennas.  This same information is available through the FM Query or TV Query with the "detailed output + CDBS links" option.
  • The Download Engineering Data provides links to public versions of the relational tables that make up the CDBS database.  Files are generally updated each business day.  Users are cautioned that the database structure is not simple, and the staff cannot provide assistance on the tables' proper arrangement and use. Alternatively, the AM, FM, and TV Queries provide an option to generate output in a formatted, pipe-delimited list (data fields are separated by "|").  This provides the information generally sought by users (see the Text and Pipe-Delimited Output Key) and can be imported into a spreadsheet or other program for immediate use.
  • Assignment (sale of station) and Transfer of Control Applications after 1999 usually will NOT be found using the CDBS Application Information link.  Use the second search form, entitled "ALTC Group Search", to locate information for these applications.  Please note that the FCC does NOT maintain data on which stations are available for sale, or the selling prices of radio or television broadcast stations.

Public Notice Information

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The Media Bureau releases information about applications received, granted, modified, or dismissed in Public Notices that may be viewed over the Internet.
  • Broadcast Applications lists applications and filings received by the Bureau.  This notice is generated each business day.
  • Broadcast Actions shows staff disposals of applications applications, e.g., granted, dismissed, returned.  This notice is generated each business day.
  • Call Sign Changes shows call letter changes for broadcast stations. Released as needed.
Links:
  • Easiest access to the Broadcast Actions, Broadcast Applications, Call Sign Changes Public Notices, is through the Audio Division's Status Lists page. 
  • Use the CDBS Public Access to locate specific application file numbers.
  • Silent AM, FM, and FM Translator
  • lists are not public notices, but are updated periodically.

Petitions for Rulemaking

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Allotment petitions for rulemaking are filed by station owners and other entities seeking to change station allotments in the FM or TV Tables of Allotments (47 CFR Sections 73.202 [FM] or 73.622 [television]).  For a proposed FM allotment, a petitioner generally must show that a site (latitude and longitude) exists that meets the minimum separation requirements in 73.207, while providing the required coverage over the proposed community of license (see 73.315).  TV proposals generally must demonstrate that a site exists that would meet the requirements in Section 73.623.  Counterproposals filed by other entities may be considered.

Initial petitions for rulemaking and related documents are available for viewing in the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System.  If you know the docket number or the rulemaking number (RM), the Quick ECFS/EDOCS Search may provide results faster.

There is no "finder's preference" for successfully petitioning for an allotment for a new FM or TV station.  Commercial FM or TV allotments for new stations will be auctioned per the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (general information about auctions).  Applicants for an allotment for a noncommercial educational FM or TV station will be selected on the basis of a point system.

The AM service does not have a Table of Allotments.

Links:

Broadcast Station Totals

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The Media Bureau issues an official count of various types of licensed radio and television stations on a quarterly basis.  To Broadcast Station Totals.


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