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.

Blog Posts

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Press Releases

  • Free Press Action Fund Welcomes Rep. Doyle's Selection as Ranking Member on Key Subcommittee

    January 12, 2017
    WASHINGTON — On Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats selected Rep. Mike Doyle (D–Pennsylvania) to serve as ranking member on the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.
  • Free Press Mourns Wally Bowen

    November 18, 2015
    WASHINGTON — North Carolina media activist and community media innovator Wally Bowen passed away Tuesday in Asheville, North Carolina. Bowen was the co-founder of the Mountain Area Information Network, a nonprofit Internet service provider, Low Power FM broadcaster and community hub. He was a nationally known advocate for local self-reliance through local ownership of media infrastructure.
  • 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.
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News from Around the Web

  • Radio Can Help Puerto Rico Rebuild

    October 17, 2017

    In the wake of the massive devastation wreaked by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Federal Communications Commission has acted swiftly to address the crisis impacting Puerto Rico. Still there remains a wonderful opportunity to take a pioneering lead in restoring crucial communications networks, including radio.

  • 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

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    U.S. journalism is in a fragile state. Strengthening the connections between newsrooms and communities is one way forward.
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    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.

  • Press Freedom

    Our democracy needs a robust press to hold our leaders accountable and cover the important issues facing our communities.

    But press freedom is under attack today, with government authorities seizing journalists’ phone records, detaining reporters at border crossings and demanding that journalists reveal the identities of confidential sources.

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good