You are here

LPFM Lets People Speak in their Own Words

November 5, 2013

Written by Carolyn M. Byerly
With the US government “open for business” again, as of Oct. 17, 2013, applications for Low Power FM (LPFM) can now be filed. 
In a notice posted to its website on Oct. 17, the Commission indicated it would be extending deadlines to reflect the government’s closure for 16 days. For details, see HERE.
From HMG’s perspective, LPFM holds the potential to serve “underserved” communities in ways that large corporate-owned stations may not.  The FCC’s own research showed that in 2012, African Americans own only 1.7% of all FM stations and 2.8 of all AM stations in the US.  Women owned only 5.8 FM stations and 7.8 AM stations.  LPFM holds the potential to give those without access to the public airwaves in full-powered broadcast stations a better chance to speak in their own voices through LPFM. 
Also referred to as “community radio”, LPFM has proven to be a useful mechanism to “shift the development paradigm toward a more participatory style of information and as a tool relevant in both economic and social development” (Seidu Al-hassan et al., 2011).
A particularly important point with LPFM ownership is that no owner is allowed to possess more than one station, and that owners must local.  This means that LPFM stations cannot be gobbled up by large conglomerates as full-powered stations have been.
As the FCC website explains:
The Commission created the LPFM service in 2000 to “enhance locally focused community-oriented radio broadcasting” in order to serve “very localized communities or underrepresented groups within communities.” Specifically, the Commission adopted rules to establish two classes of LPFM facilities: (a) the LP100 class, consisting of stations with a maximum power of 100 watts effective radiated power (“ERP”) at 30 meters antenna height above average terrain (“HAAT”), providing an FM service radius (1 mV/m or 60 dBu) of approximately 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers); and (b) the LP10 class, consisting of stations with a maximum of 10 watts ERP at 30 meters HAAT, providing an FM service radius of approximately one to two miles (1.6 to 3.2 kilometers).  
The LPFM Order establishing the service imposed separation requirements for LPFM stations to protect full-service FM stations operating on the co-, first-, and second-adjacent channels, as well as stations operating on intermediate frequency channels.  The LPFM Order concluded, however, that imposition of a third-adjacent channel separation requirement would restrict unnecessarily the number of LPFM stations that could be authorized, and therefore declined to impose that requirement.  As discussed below, Congress later directed the Commission to adopt such a restriction.  The LPFM Order also established ownership and eligibility rules for the LPFM service. In addition to restricting LPFM service to NCE operations and restricting licensee eligibility to applicants with no attributable interests in any other media subject to the Commission’s ownership rules, the Commission prohibited the assignment or transfer of LPFM construction permits and licenses.  It further determined that, during the two years following the first LPFM filing window, no entity would be permitted to own more than one LPFM station and ownership would be restricted to local entities (
Al-hassan, S., Andan, A., & Abdul-Malik, A.  (2011). The Role of Community Radio in Livelihood Improvement: The Case of Simli Radio. Field Actions Science Reports 5, 1-6.