To help potential applicants with the filing process, here are answers to some commonly asked questions. Additional information is posted on the main LPFM page at Low Power FM Broadcast Radio Stations (LPFM). Because these FAQs do not cover every aspect of the LPFM service, please make sure you read and understand all the rules before you apply (the link for the rules is at the end of this document).
We strongly encourage you to review the LPFM application form and instructions before beginning the electronic filing process. If you have general questions that are not covered below, the Commission's August 20, 2013 LPFM Webinar and the October 24, 2013 Second LPFM Webinar may provide answers. Other questions may be e-mailed (with details, please!) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: When will the next LPFM application filing window be?
A: No date has yet been set for the next LPFM application filing window. When a date is fixed, it will be announced in multiple places on the FCC's website. The announcement will be made at least 30 days before the filing period starts.
Q: How can I tell if there is a frequency available at my desired location?
A: The FCC’s Media Bureau maintains the LPFM Channel Finder tool to help you determine whether there is an available FM channel for an LPFM station at a specific site. It is your responsibility to find a channel (frequency) and location (latitude/longitude) combination that complies with the FCC protection requirements. The LPFM Channel Finder cannot evaluate all considerations relevant to the suitability of a particular site or frequency.
Please keep in mind that spectrum will be scarce or not available in certain areas, particularly in larger communities, so you may find that no frequencies for LPFM may be available at a given location.
Q: How far will the signal go?
A: LPFM stations are limited to 100 watts and a service range of 5.6 kilometers (3.5 mile radius). This does not mean that the station cannot be heard beyond a 3.5 miles radius. It’s an approximation of the expected average coverage.
Q: How do I apply for a construction permit?
A: You need to complete and electronically submit FCC Form 318 during an announced LPFM filing window (no LPFM filing window periods are currently scheduled). The applications are filed through the Media Bureau’s Consolidated Database System (CDBS). No paper applications will be accepted. However, you may want to review the printed version of FCC Form 318 before you start to prepare your application. The CDBS electronic filing site also contains information on the CDBS electronic filing process.
Q: What type of costs are involved?
A: There is no application filing fee and no fee for the LPFM construction permit. However, there are construction and operating costs associated with an LPFM radio station. The costs can vary widely depending on the type and quality of studio and broadcasting equipment used, as well as whether a tower is required. For an idea of how much equipment costs, NTIA’s Radio Station Construction Costs may help, but keep in mind that these figures are several years out of date. We recommend that you do not purchase any equipment until after the applicant obtains a construction permit, to avoid purchasing equipment that cannot be used.
Q: Who can I contact for help?
A: While the FCC can answer general questions such as those in this document, we do not provide consulting services. Nor can we recommend one consulting service over another. We do suggest that you get technical and legal guidance. There are groups and organizations that are willing to provide assistance for little or no cost.
Q: Do I need a 501(c)(3) certification as proof of my nonprofit status?
A: No. As long as you are organized as a nonprofit educational institution, corporation, or entity under your State’s laws, you are eligible to apply for an LPFM construction permit. Although some states recognize unincorporated nonprofit entities, the vast majority of LPFM licensees and permittees are incorporated through their Secretaries of State as nonprofits.
Q: Are there any other eligibility requirements?
A: Yes. You can only submit an application if you are a “local” applicant. For most, “local” is defined as being physically headquartered or having a campus within 10 miles of the proposed transmitter site (20 miles outside the top 50 markets), or having 75% of your board members residing within 10 miles of the proposed transmitter site (20 miles outside the top 50 markets). See 47 C.F.R. § 73.853.
Q: My organization already owns a full-power station. Can we apply for an LPFM construction permit?
A: Generally, no, you cannot apply for an LPFM construction permit if you already own another broadcast station, including an FM translator station or low power TV station. However, there are some exceptions, such as: (1) if you pledge in the LPFM application to divest the existing broadcast station, you can apply for a new LPFM station; (2) you can apply if you are an accredited school that has a non-student-run, full power broadcast station, as long as the LPFM station will be managed and operated by students of your accredited school (the accredited school will not have to divest its non-student-run full power broadcast station); and (3) you can own up to two FM translator stations under certain conditions as noted in 47 C.F.R. § 73.860(b)).
Q: What if my organization is a local chapter of a larger, national organization and the national organization already owns a broadcast station. Can the local chapter apply for an LPFM construction permit?
A: Yes, but only if the chapter is separately incorporated and has a distinct local presence and mission.
Q: Can my organization file multiple LPFM applications?
A: No, with two exceptions. A Tribal applicant can file up to two LPFM applications, while a nonprofit/governmental entity with a public safety purpose has no restrictions on the number of applications it can file.
Q: When will my application be approved?
A: After the filing window closes, if your application does not conflict with other window filings and meets all other domestic and international requirements, it will be processed within a few months of when it was filed.
If your application does conflict with other applications, it will be processed as outlined in the FCC’s rules. It is impossible to provide a time frame for processing conflicting applications until sometime after the close of the window. Timing will depend on a number of factors such as: the number of applications filed; the number of applications that conflict with other window filings; the extent to which applicants take advantage of settlement and amendment opportunities; applicant resolution of any environmental, other siting and grantability issues; international coordination (if applicable); and other factors.
As we mentioned before, you are strongly encouraged to submit your application early in the filing window. Applications not successfully filed prior to the close of the window will NOT be considered.
Q: How will the Commission resolve conflicting applications?
A: If you have a conflicting application, you will have an opportunity to propose a settlement. If you don’t propose a settlement, the Bureau will use a point system to select among the conflicting applications. The applicant with the highest number of points will be the selectee. One point each for the following factors can be claimed, up to a maximum number of six, if you: (1) have an established community presence of at least two years; (2) pledge to originate locally at least eight hours of programming per day; (3) pledge to maintain a publicly accessible main studio that has local program origination capability; (4) can certify that you qualify for a point under both the local program origination and the main studio criteria; (5) can certify that neither you nor any party to your application has an attributable interest in another broadcast station; and (6) you are a Tribal Applicant proposing to locate your transmitting antenna site on your Tribal Lands.
In cases where the point system results in a tie, you will have an opportunity to enter into voluntary time-share agreements, otherwise the Bureau will determine the hours of operation for each selectee in the group. See 47 C.F.R. § 73.872.
Q: Where can I find the rules?
A: The LPFM rules can be found in 47 C.F.R. §§ 73.801-73.881, and accessed at Part 73 of the ECFR.
You also may find the following documents helpful:
Low Power FM Broadcast Radio Stations (general information).
How to Apply for a Radio or Television Broadcast Station
The Public and Broadcasting, July 2008 (current edition)