FCC Announces New Opportunity for Community Groups to Start Low Power FM Radio Stations

Media & Tech 12.5,12

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took another step forward for media justice and diversity with the announcement last week of a new opportunity for community groups to apply for licenses to start local radio stations.

The announcement is the biggest victory for community radio since President Obama signed the Local Community Radio Act in 2011 requiring the FCC to issue new low power FM radio licenses nationwide.

Advocates were pleased that the FCC set a firm date of October 15, 2013, for local groups to submit their license applications. And while the FCC will not require applicants to offer local content, those who do will be given preference, which will be especially important in locations where there are fewer licenses available.

“Finally, communities without a voice on the airwaves will have a chance to control their own local media,” said Brandy Doyle, policy director for the Prometheus Radio Project. “Thanks to the significant step forward today, we will see a wave of new radio stations that better reflects the diversity of our country.”

Low power FM (LPFM) refers to community-based, non-commercial FM stations that operate at 100 watts or less and have a broadcast reach of only a few miles. It is a powerful tool for traditionally underrepresented groups, especially low-income communities and communities of color, to have a voice in local media by broadcasting local content and diverse programming not heard on commercial radio. A recent study by New America Media showed that 82 percent of the U.S. ethnic population is reached by ethnic media, and ethnic radio is one of the fastest growing mediums for reaching these populations.

LPFM stations do what mega-radio networks cannot: provide local news and meet local needs. During Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, people turned to local radio for up-to-date information when commercial radio and news stations were shut down by the storm. 

Civil and human rights organizations have been working to ensure that the granting of new radio licenses provides adequate opportunities for underrepresented communities — including people of color, women, seniors, and people with disabilities — to fully participate and enjoy the benefits of local radio.

For more updates and information on how to start a station, visit prometheusradio.org.