Low Power FM Filing Window Announced

Posted on July 8th, 2013 by

After more than a decade since the last filing opportunity for new low power FM stations, the FCC has announced a 15-day LPFM filing window for this fall. The window will begin on October 15, 2013 and close at 6 pm EDT on October 29, 2013.

Though LPFM stations must operate non-commercially, applicants will be able to apply for LPFM stations in the entire FM band (channels 201-300). Individuals cannot apply for LPFM licenses. Only nonprofit educational organizations, state or local governments, non-government entities or tribally controlled organizations can participate. However, the number of applications those entities can file is limited. Non-profit educational organizations can only file one application in the window, while Tribal applicants may only file two applications. Governmental entities or non-profit entities proposing to operate public safety or emergency services may file more than one application, but must designate a “priority” application if multiple applications are submitted.

In connection with its LPFM window notice, the FCC simultaneously announced the availability of a revised FCC Form 318 to be used by all applicants. Though applications cannot be filed until the window, applicants can create an account and begin completing the application. No filing fee is required when the application is filed. Completing the application properly is critical. The FCC’s notice makes clear that incomplete and patently defective applications will be dismissed without any opportunity to amend. The form is not as simple as it looks, and applicants
should be certain they understand the FCC’s rules before completing the form.

While filing an application early in the window does not give an applicant any priority (all applications are treated the same, with no preference), the FCC does encourage early filing in the window so that any errors can be fixed during the window. Multiple amendments during the window are allowed. Applications filed during the window will not be available to the public until after the close of the filing window, so there is no reason for applicants to try to “hide” their application from others by filing late in the window.

Once all applications are on file, and the FCC reviews them for completeness and dismisses those that are not, it will announce a settlement window and mutually exclusive list of applicants. Those not settling or filing technical amendments to end their mutual exclusivity will be decided on a points system. Applicants must claim points they qualify for in the application, and will get one point each if they meet the  following: (a) have an established community presence of at least two years, (b) pledge to originate locally at least eight hours of programming per day, (c) pledge to maintain a publicly accessible main studio that has local program origination capability, (d) certify that it qualifies for a point under both the local program origination and the main studio criteria, (e) certify that neither it nor any party to the application has an attributable interest in another broadcast station, and (f) is a Tribal applicant proposing to locate its transmitting antenna site on that Tribal  Applicant’s Tribal lands.

The FCC is expecting thousands of new LPFM applications in the window. While applicants are required to protect all FM, FM translator, FM booster and TV Channel 6 authorizations, they only have to protect pending broadcast applications in those services that were filed prior to the June 17, 2013 date of the FCC’s LPFM window notice. The FCC has specific, detailed rules for the resolution of LPFM interference to other stations.

Currently, there are approximately 800 licensed LPFM stations in the United States.