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 local emergencies.
The Federal Communications Commission first authorized LPFM stations in 2000, and it issued more than 800 licenses to colleges, churches, labor unions, civil rights groups and other organizations across the country.
Claiming the tiny stations would interfere with commercial radio’s full-power signals, however, 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 radio 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, 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.
The FCC is now developing the rules that will govern these new community stations. The agency’s next move will determine whether just a handful of stations start broadcasting — or thousands take to the airwaves. Free Press continues to work with Prometheus Radio Project and others to ensure the best outcome for community radio and educate the public about the LPFM application process.