Low Power FM Radio

Low Power FM radio stations are community-based nonprofit outlets that broadcast to neighborhoods and small towns throughout the country.

LPFM stations have a limited broadcast range of just a few miles, but their impact on communities can be immense. These noncommercial stations inject vibrancy into a radio dial that has suffered from years of media consolidation.

LPFM stations offer a platform for content and viewpoints that traditional media overlook. These stations foster community identity and serve as hubs for vital safety information during emergencies.

LPFM History

The Federal Communications Commission first authorized LPFM stations in 2000, and it issued more than 800 licenses to schools, churches, labor unions, civil rights groups, community centers and other organizations across the country.

Claiming the tiny stations would interfere with commercial radio’s full-power signals, broadcast-industry lobbyists pressured Congress into passing a law that radically reduced the opportunities available to LPFM stations. As a result, thousands of potential new stations were blocked.

A subsequent FCC study rejected the interference argument, and the agency urged Congress to repeal the LPFM restrictions. But it took years of advocacy from Free Press, the Prometheus Radio Project and other organizations to create momentum to change the law. In early 2011,  President Obama signed the Local Community Radio Act, which paved the way for fresh music, local perspectives and community news on the public airwaves.

In the fall of 2013, the FCC accepted applications for new LPFM stations. Those applications are currently under review. The agency’s next move will determine whether just a handful of stations start broadcasting — or thousands take to the airwaves.

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Press Releases

  • Free Press Hails FCC Plans to Expose Covert Consolidation, Promote Broadcast Diversity

    March 6, 2014
    WASHINGTON — On Thursday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that the agency will take a closer look at television station "sharing arrangements." These agreements allow a single conglomerate to control multiple stations in the same market, skirting FCC rules that are supposed to preserve independence and diversity on the airwaves.
  • Promise of Low Power FM Radio Moves Closer to Becoming Reality

    November 30, 2012

    WASHINGTON -- On Friday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to clear space for hundreds of new community radio stations around the country and set the process to begin taking new applications for Low Power FM licenses in 2013.

    These radio stations give community voices a place on the radio dial. They give underserved populations, non-English speakers, local artists, grassroots advocates and religious organizations a chance to make their messages heard and find space in radio markets typically saturated by media conglomerates.

  • Free Press Applauds FCC for Opening Up Airwaves for Low Power Radio

    March 20, 2012

    WASHINGTON – On Monday evening, the Federal Communications Commission released two decisions to implement the Local Community Radio Act passed by Congress in December 2010. These orders clear space for Low Power FM stations to provide opportunities for community radio in every market, and they propose rules for beginning to license such LPFM stations.

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News from Around the Web

  • Roots, Radio and Social Change: Why Low Power FM Radio Is About You

    Moyers & Company
    October 25, 2013

    In an environment in which corporations and the government increasingly control the airwaves, where can social justice movements and marginalized communities go to have their voices heard? Enter low power FM radio (LPFM).

  • FCC Approves LPFM Item

    Broadcasting & Cable
    December 3, 2012

    The FCC voted unanimously to allow for more Low Power FM stations, particularly in urban areas where adjacent-channel restrictions had limited the number of LPFM stations.

Learn More

  • Defending Press Freedom

    The media landscape is changing dramatically, empowering more and more people to become media makers even as the traditional infrastructures that have supported journalism for years are eroding.
  • Attacks on Public Media

    Every year, for almost a decade, Americans have ranked public television as the institution they trust most. And more than 70 percent of Americans see funding for public television as money “well spent.” Exactly how much do Americans spend to support this resource? Pocket change: The United States spends less than$1.50 per person on public broadcasting — 20 times less than Germany and a whopping 70 times less than Denmark.

  • Nonprofit Journalism

    The ravages of consolidation and the rise of the Internet have converged to create a crisis in journalism.  Job cuts have decimated newsrooms, media companies have closed foreign bureaus, and the number of journalists covering statehouses has shrunk to almost zero in many places. Many small cities and towns — and even large cities like New Orleans — are now without a daily local newspaper.

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good