by Cody Duncan, FMC Policy Intern
Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a public notice announcing a filing window for applications for new low power FM (LPFM) radio stations. LPFMs are community-based, non-commercial radio stations that operate at 100 watts or less and reach a radius of 3 to 7 miles (check out our LPFM fact sheet for more info).
These small but mighty stations are an alternative to broadcasters that seem to play the same five songs on infinite repeat, and provide opportunities for local and niche artists to recieve airplay. LPFMs also offer a wide variety of small, independent organizations — including schools, civic groups, churches, and non-profits — a platform from which to engage with local communities.
Those interested in applying for a station can do via this form at the FCC website. Applications must be submitted between October 15th and 29th, 2013. Our friends at at Prometheus Radio Project lay out some further details:
The new low power application has a few important changes from the past. First, new stations will be permitted in urban areas for the first time ever. As long as an applicant can prove that their station would cause no harmful interference, the FCC will grant a special waiver. This new change will double or triple the number of new stations available, and it’s a major victory for Prometheus and our allies who fought for it.
Additionally, the FCC will offer special incentives to stations that provide local programming, and who maintain publicly accessible studios — a focus on community-driven broadcasting that we can really get behind.
This round of applications represents the culmination of over a decade of work, and is a long-awaited milestone, particularly for those areas that have been historically underserved by commerical stations. As we have noted in the past, for a significant portion of the population, FM radio remains vitally important as a source of local information, culture, and entertainment.
The internet is great, but radio is still incredibly important. First, many people still lack access to broadband internet service. Second, LPFM remains an ideal platform for serving smaller markets and providing access to local news and music programming, as well as the dissemination of vital information in times of emergency.
[Photo: ”Radio Transmission towers” by FastLizard4 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution]