Mark your calendars: the FCC has scheduled a two-week filing window for LPFM station licenses to begin on October 15, 2013. More than a decade since the first (and only) LPFM filing window, this may very well be the last chance to build a wave of new community radio stations in the United States.
The application process is not simple, and there are 130 days to master it. It is crunch-time.
The best place to look for LPFM channel availability is via REC Networks’ myLPFM channel search, which allows for both general and specific queries, as well as an impressive array of tools by which to massage the channel-hunting data.
The Prometheus Radio Project has committed to providing "intensive support" to 60 groups around the country "to ensure that their application is the best it can be and that their station will be both viable and sustainable for lasting community impact." They estimate this effort will cost $120,000 (or $2,000 per group).
Prometheus is also producing regular webinars that explain the basics of starting an LPFM station and is staffing a phone help desk for potential applicants. All of this is on top of the extensive online resources they already offer.
Broadcast attorney David Oxenford notes that "Groups thinking about opportunities in [large] markets need to be prepared to face competition for the few channels that may be available and to be realistic – as there will be many places where no channels will be available to serve a particular part of a metropolitan area." That said, the filing window is expected to attract thousands of applications for more than 1,000 stations.
Due to the expected crush of applicants, fellow D.C. counsel Harry Cole cautions that the FCC plans to dismiss LPFM applications that are not "letter perfect" en masse; those that are "incomplete" or "patently defective" will be tossed out as soon as the filing window closes on October 29th. So make sure to get the application right the first time – or file early enough in the window so that you can make amendments before it closes.
The last time around, more than 1,300 LPFM station licenses were granted, of which some 40% were subsequently cancelled or expired, leaving just shy of 800 on the air. This window will be much bigger – and with nearly 15 years of effort culminating in this opportunity, hopes are very high.