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.
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.