[This post was co-authored by FMC Communications Intern Katie Willmott]
Are you excited about the big LPFM rollout? We certainly are. What’s that? You don’t know about this amazing technology that brings real local radio to communities across the country? Well, hold tight and we’ll explain…
Low Power FM — LPFM for short — is a form of non-commercial FM broadcasting that uses a low amount of energy (100-watts) to cover a small area (around 5-7 miles) at a much lower cost than bigger stations. For years, we’ve been pushing for the broader availability of LPFM as an anecdote to the stale playlists and lack of localism on the commercial dial. It hasn’t been easy.
In the early 2000s, Congress, bowing from pressure from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) they could only issue licenses in mostly rural areas. By late 2010, a coalition of dedicated advocates — including FMC, Prometheus Radio Project and others — helped accomplish what many thought was impossible: the passage of the Local Community Radio Act, which cleared the way for the creation of potentially thousands of new LPFM stations in markets where they’d previously been off-limits.
The expansion of LPFM is important for a multitude of reasons. These small but crucial outlets serve to diversify the airwaves, providing an alternative to stations they seem to play the same five songs on infinite repeat. LPFM stations also give local and up-and-coming artists an opportunity to promote themselves and have their music be heard. Furthermore, LPFM stations can even provide an outlet for already-established artists that rarely receive airtime on corporate stations.
LPFMs provide clear benefit musicians and their fans, but they also give a wide variety of small, independent organizations — including schools, civic groups, churches, and non-profits — a platform from which to engage with local communities. This is why in 2009 we launched of the “I Support Community Radio” campaign, which features established and emerging musicians talking about how local radio has positively impacted their lives, both as artists and listeners.
Now, we’re psyched to finally hear some great new stations.
So how can YOU get a station in your community? Well, it’s not exactly a “wave a magic wand” kind of thing. The FCC has certain rules and requirements in its application process, but there are folks who can assist. Here’s what our friends at Prometheus Radio Project can provide on the road to the airwaves:
- Help filing the application
- Information on everything you need to know to start a station
- Regular updates about what you need to do when
- Trainings and materials
- Workshops at upcoming conferences
- Connections to other groups in your area
- Ways to connect with existing stations to get answers
- Demystification of technology and policy
- Referrals for engineers and lawyers as needed
- Tools to start making media now
Head over to Prometheus Radio and sign up for more info on the upcoming licensing window. And keep your eyes right here as this exciting opportunity unfolds…