Low Power FM: Reclaiming the Airwaves
Demo of Low Power FM transmitter
One for Our Side
US activists fed up with the distortions and overt censorship of the corporate media, finally have the opportunity to start their own Low Power FM (LPFM) stations. Under new FCC rules issued last November, the window for nonprofit organizations, schools, Indian Tribes and public safety agencies to apply for urban LPFM licenses will open in October 2013.
The FCC was required to make LPFM licenses available to urban applicants under the Local Community Radio Act of 2010. In addition to requiring the FCC to make more channels available, the 2010 law also reverses an earlier statute limiting LPFM stations to rural areas. Commercial stations and NPR had lobbied for this limitation based on the (debatable) argument that low power stations on adjacent frequencies would cause signal interference.
The Local Community Radio Act was passed after massive grassroots organizing spearheaded by the Prometheus Radio Project, which is dedicated to freeing the airwaves from corporate control. Their website has a special “Start a Station” page for groups interested in starting a radio station. Community groups who are thinking of applying for an LPFM license in October should start making decisions now about studio space and transmission equipment (and how they will pay for it). Only 70 new licenses will be granted.
The Prometheus website also has excellent “Operational Support” and “Technical Support” pages that outline all the equipment you need and where to source it cheaply.
At present there are more than 800 noncommercial LPFM stations in the rural US. The current application fee for an LPFM license is $135.