At least eight low power FM (LPFM) radio slots will be made available in the greater Seattle area as part of the Local Community Radio Act passed by Congress in 2010.
The act is an effort to make radio accessible to nonprofit groups. LPFM stations are required to be noncommercial, available only to nonprofit organizations, schools, churches, local governments and community groups. Current broadcast licensees with interests in other media (broadcast or newspapers) are not eligible to obtain LPFM stations.
LPFM signals will reach three to 10 miles and will be less expensive than full power radio stations.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will begin accepting applications for these LPFM stations Oct. 15, and competition is expected to be stiff. It is the first time that LPFM licenses will be awarded in major urban markets, such as Seattle, and it could be the last time for the foreseeable future. The FCC makes no guarantee of another application window opening for major urban markets after this opportunity.
Applications for LPFM stations may only be filed during specified filing periods announced by the FCC and must be filed electronically on FCC Form 318. Many applicants hire legal and engineering consultants to help them apply.
In Seattle, community leaders are encouraging local nonprofit organizations and community media organizations to use LPFM as a tool to expand their voices.
“It’s exciting because the LPFM gives another outlet for getting diverse and local voice onto the radio spectrum,” said David Keyes, the Community Technology Program Manager for the City of Seattle Department of Information Technology.
In the midst of a vibrant public radio station scene, Keyes is optimistic that the LPFM will complement and give more space for localized programming, especially for communities that would broadcast in different languages.
“For [LPFM stations] to be successful, it will [require] marketing and creating a sense of community around the programs and stations,” said Keyes.
One way to lessen the risks of failure, according to Keyes, is partnerships. In order to make LPFM stations more feasible and sustainable, partnership between the community and its organizations will be critical.
“We’d probably rather have [fewer] stations that survive, than more stations that fail,” said Keyes.
For more information, see fcc.gov/lpfm.