Guide to Non-Engineering Sections of FCC Low Power Radio Application

Guide to Non-Engineering Sections of FCC Low Power Radio Application

Attention: The filing window for low power FM applications CLOSED as of November 15th, 2013. It is unlikely that the FCC will be making another opportunity to apply for low power FM licenses any time soon. We are not accepting inquiries about applying for LPFM stations.

Download our guide to the engineering sections of the low power radio application here.


In This Guide


GETTING STARTED

Who Can Apply

Only locally based nonprofit organizations, schools, public safety agencies, and federally recognized Tribes are eligible for low power radio stations. Nonprofit organizations must be headquartered within 10 miles of the proposed station. If  the location of your headquarters does not meet this requirement or if you don’t have a headquarters, then you must show that 75% of your board members live within 10 miles. If you are outside the top 50 radio markets, your board members or headquarters can be within 20 miles, not 10.

The FCC also looks at the makeup of your board of directors to decide if your group is eligible. The requirements are:

  • The board members of your organization and their family members may not control another broadcast license or daily newspaper. 
  • 80% of your board members must be US citizens. 
  • Board members must report any felony convictions from the past ten years, and the FCC may disqualify your application on this basis. 
  • Board members must not have drug convictions that resulted in the denial of federal benefits.
  • Board members must not have engaged in unlicensed (pirate) broadcasting.

There are some exceptions to these board requirements, and the rules are more involved for complex groups likes stock corporations, so if you’re not sure whether your organization meets the guidelines, review our checklist or the complete FCC instructions.  

How To Apply

You can download a copy of the low power radio application, called Form 318, here, but you must submit the application using the FCC’s online portal, the Consolidated Database System, or CDBS. You can only submit your application during a two-week “window” October 15-29 -- you may not file your application early or late. However, you can start your application online now! You can save your draft online, then go back online in October to submit the application.

What does the FCC look for in your application? There are three main factors:

  • You must prove that your organization is eligible. You will need to submit documentation about your organization’s nonprofit status and your plans for a noncommercial, educational station. More on this below.
  • You can qualify for extra priority “points” by meeting special criteria. If you have competitors in your area, the FCC will grant the license to the competing group with the most points.  
  • You must prove that there is room for a station at your location and on your proposed FM channel. Most groups will need to hire an engineer to produce a study of your local area demonstrating that your future station won’t cause interference to neighboring stations.

Materials To Gather

As part of your application, you will need to submit materials to prove that you are a state-registered, local nonprofit organization, that you have an educational purpose, and that your LPFM station will further that purpose. To do this, you’ll need to gather the following materials: 

  • A description of your organization’s educational goal or purpose
  • An explanation of how your programming will further this purpose
  • A detailed description of your proposed program, including program schedules if possible
  • Information about your organization’s board members (name, citizenship, title, percent or number of votes on board, and percentage of organization’s assets, if applicable)
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Tax ID number, if your organization has one.
  • Documents establishing your nonprofit status, such as the articles of incorporation (otherwise known as the charter) that list the state and date of your incorporation. If you’re not incorporated, you may include your articles of association, other documents filed with your state, or some other documentation of your organization’s creation.

See details on writing these documents here.


STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO FORM 318

Create an FCC Account

Before you can start your application, you need to create an account with the FCC’s Consolidated Database System (CDBS) Electronic Filing System. You can find the login page here. Although you can also download an application form to review, you can only submit your application using the online forms at CDBS.

 

 Click ‘Create a New Account.’

 

FIll out the information in the text boxes. In the ‘Legal Name of Applicant’ field, list the name of your organization, not your name. Your password must be at 8-12 characters and is case sensitive. Be sure to choose a password you will remember.

When finished, click ‘Create the Account’.

The system will provide you with an account number. Don't lose it! Note your account number and password for your records.

 

Start Your Application

Before filling out Form 318, you should enter some basic contact information.  Now that you’ve got an account with CDBS, return to the CDBS log-in page and enter your account number and password.

At the top of the page, click ‘Account Maintenance’.

 

 In the ‘Account Type’ field, select ‘CONTACT REP’. Then click ‘Continue’.

 You can simply click ‘Copy’ to fill out your group’s information as the contact.  The contact should be the individual who you would like the FCC to contact for any reason relating to your application. You may list your attorney if he/she is your primary contact with the FCC.

When all the information is filled out, click ‘Update the Account’ and return to the main menu.  From the list of forms, select ‘FCC 318 -- Application for Construction Permit for a Low Power FM Broadcast Station’. This will take you to the Pre-Form.

On the pre-form, you can enter anything you like into the Form Description (eg “My LPFM application,” etc.) Select ‘New Station’ as the ‘Application Purpose’. Clicking ‘Enter’ will take you to Section I of the form. 


Section I - General Information

Most of the required fields in Section I will be auto-filled by the FCC using the information you have already provided.  Under 3(b), ‘Station location,’ you should identify the community where you plan to locate the station’s transmitting antenna.

The application requires you to have an FCC Registration Number (FRN). To get one, click ‘Edit FRN’.

 

To get an FRN, you must register with the FCC’s Commission Registration System (CORES). You can reach the CORES home page from the link on the ‘CDBS CORES FCC Registration Number (FRN) Screen’, and it is also provided here for reference. You will need your organization’s Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Tax ID number to register with CORES and receive your FRN.

If you lack both an EIN and a Taxpayer ID number, you will need to explain why you lack an EIN by clicking on the dropdown menu and selecting the option “The EIN has been applied for.” That answer will suffice for the purposes of getting an FRN. For organizations without an EIN, you will need to apply for one by the time you file your application. For more information on FRNs, click here to visit the FCC’s FAQ page on the subject.

When you receive your FRN, enter your information and click ‘Save’. Then return to Section I of the application. If all your information is complete and accurate, click ‘Menu’ to move on in the application.

 

Under ‘New Section’, select ‘Section II - Legal’ to move on to the next section. 


Section II - Legal

1. Certification
2. Eligibility
3. Parties to the Application 
4. Community-Based Criteria
5. Ownership
6. Character Issues
7. Adverse Findings
8. Unlicensed Operation
9. Anti-Drug Abuse


1. Certification

This question asks you to certify that you will answer each question in the application accurately and honestly, based on your review of the instructions and worksheets.  You must select ‘Yes’ for the FCC to consider your application. Never lie to the FCC. Your application could be dismissed, and you could face fines and/or criminal penalties.

 2. Eligibility

The Eligibility subsection checks that your organization is eligible for an LPFM license. Only nonprofit educational organizations, Tribes or Tribal organizations, and noncommercial public safety services can receive an LPFM license. Check only one of the options listed. If you represent a nonprofit organization, select ‘Yes’ for 2(a) only.

All applicants must submit materials for Exhibit 2. Click ‘Exhibit 2’ in the right-hand column to upload your materials.

On the Exhibit 2 screen, enter anything you like in the Description field (e.g. “Exhibit 2 for ABC Organization”). Click "Add/View Attachement(s) to upload your exhibit.

If you represent a nonprofit organization, your exhibit must include:

  • your organization's educational purpose
  • how proposed programming will advance your educational purpose
  • detailed descriptions of proposed programming and, if possible, program schedules
  • documents establishing your nonprofit status, such as corporate charters or articles of incorporation. If you’re not incorporated, you may include your articles of association, other documents filed with your state, or some other documentation of the your organization’s creation.

It is recommended that you include headers to label the various parts of your exhibit.This will make it easier for anyone reviewing the application to know that all elements have been fulfilled. Documents such as your articles of incorporation you can include as an attachment.

Keep in mind that your application will not be judged on merits of your organization’s purpose or programming, as long as they are noncommercial. "Educational purpose" is defined broadly; for example, music and public affairs program might advance your organization's education purpose. For more detailed instructions on what ito include in Exhibit 2, download this document.

Note that you do not have to be registered as a 501(c)(3) to be be eligible, but you do need to qualify as a nonprofit educational organization under your state’s laws. If you represent a Tribe or Tribal organization or public safety service, see FCC Form 318 page 3 for instructions.

When finished, click ‘Save’ and then ‘Previous’ to return to Section II. 

3. Parties To The Application

The parties to your application are the people who have legal control over your organization. Generally, these are the members that make up your board of directors. You should consult your organization’s bylaws before completing this subsection. This guide is written for typical community organizations (‘non-stock corporations’) and does not discuss FCC rules that apply to stock corporations, limited liability companies, or more complex organizations. For more complex cases, it may be necessary to consult an attorney. See the Form 318 instructions for more details.

To begin, click ‘Parties to the Application’ under 3(a).

 

Fill out this page for each party to the application, i.e. each member of your board of directors.

To be eligible for an LPFM license, no more than 20% of your board can be controlled by non-citizens of the US.  The ‘Positional Interest’ is the party’s title. For board members, this title is usually ‘Director,’ but check your organization’s bylaws to be sure. Many organizations assign an equal percentage of votes to each board member, but, again, you should check to see if that’s the case for your group. Note that for most nonprofit organizations, ‘percentage of total assets’ for each party is zero, since board members do not own the organization’s assets. 

Click ‘Save’, then ‘add Copy 2’ to fill in information for next party.  Repeat until all parties are accounted for.  When finished, click ‘Save’ and then ‘Previous’ to return to Section II.

Question 3(b) asks you to certify that you have listed all parties who have an attributable interest in your organization. In other words, no other party has a financial stake in your organization that could give them a large degree of influence or control over your station, even though they don’t technically “own” it. If there are any other parties who may have a stake in your organization, you should consult pages 4-6 of the Form 318 instructions to see if those interests are attributable. 

Under 3(b), select ‘NA’ if all equity and financial interests of your organization are listed in Parties to the Application.  Most simple non-profit organizations should select ‘NA.’ 

Select ‘Yes’ if there are other parties with control over your organization, but their interests are not attributable, meaning that they do not trigger the FCC’s multiple ownership rules. See pages 4-6 of the Form 318 instructions.

You may select ‘No’ and submit an exhibit only under the following circumstances:

  • If your organization is a university that already has another LPFM license, officers or directors whose duties are completely unrelated to the LPFM station may submit an exhibit recusing themselves of any matters affecting the LPFM station.
  • If your organization is a local chapter of a national organization, you should submit an exhibit demonstrating that your organization is locally incorporated separately from the national organization and that it has a distinct local mission with significant membership in the local area.  

4. Community - Based Criteria



This subsection is to verify that your organization qualifies for an LPFM license as a local organization. Nonprofits must either be physically headquartered within 10 miles of the proposed transmitting antenna (or within 20 miles if you are outside the top 50 radio markets), or have at least 75% of your organization’s board members reside within 10 miles of the transmitting antenna (within 20 miles outside the top 50 radio markets). You do not need to meet both criteria.

We recommend that if you do qualify for both 4(a) and 4(b), select the headquarters option, 4(a). Board members and their residences may change, making this a less certain way to qualify. 

5. Ownership

This subsection is to ensure that applicants do not violate the FCC rules regarding ownership of multiple LPFMs or other media outlets. 

5(a) Ownership of Other LPFM Stations

Generally, each organization may own only one LPFM station. Select ‘Yes’ to 5(a) if no party to your application owns any other LPFM station or has any other LPFM applications on file with the FCC. 

Only select ‘No’ if you plan to divest your organization of the conflicting station or application before the LPFM you apply for begins operating. In that case, submit an exhibit with identifying information on any conflicting LPFM stations, file numbers of any pending applications, and a statement of the party’s intention to divest interest from the conflicting station(s) before the LPFM that you are applying for begins operating.

Tribes and Tribal organizations and public safety agencies have different ownership rules. See Form 318 instructions page 6 for details.

5 (b) Ownership of Other Media

In general, LPFM licensees cannot own other broadcast stations, cable systems, or daily newspapers. (Online radio stations, cable access TV channels, and weekly newspapers are fine.)  

There are two exceptions: Tribes and Tribal organizations can own up to two LPFM stations, and schools and universities can apply for a student-run LPFM station if their existing radio station is not student-run. Furthermore, parties to your application cannot own more than two FM translators (or four FM translators in the case of a Tribe or Tribal organization).  

If your organization owns no other media or meets the above criteria, you may select ‘Yes’.  

If you select ‘No’, you may submit an exhibit that includes identifying information on any conflicting broadcast entities, and a statement of your intention to divest interest from the conflicting station(s) before the LPFM that you are applying for begins operating.

5(c) Immediate Family Members

Just as your board members generally may not control other media, the FCC has rules about the media interests of your board’s immediate family members. Immediate family here means the husband, wife, father, mother, sister, brother, son or daughter of any party to the application.

If these family members of your board members have any connection with any other broadcast station, pending broadcast application, or daily newspaper in the same area, you should complete Worksheet #1a, which can be found on page 13 of the pdf version of Form 318.  (If not, select ‘Yes.’) You will not need to submit the worksheet to the FCC.   

If Worksheet #1a determines that you are in compliance with FCC rules on the media interests of family members, you may select ‘Yes’ for this field. If not, you may still be eligible, but you must answer ‘No’ and attach an exhibit.  In this case, you may need the assistance of an attorney.

5(d) Investor Insulation and Non-Participation of Non-Party Investors and Creditors

This field is only relevant if your organization is a limited partnership or a limited liability corporation, or if your organization has non-party investors that could influence your organization. See Form 318 instructions page 7 if this may apply to you. 

If this does not apply to your organization, you may select ‘Yes’ for this field. 

6. Character Issues

 

This question only applies to applicants who have had unresolved character issues from previous broadcast applications or proceedings. If the FCC has never raised character issues about your organization or board members, then check ‘Yes.’

If you select ‘No’, you must submit materials for Exhibit 8. See Form 318 instructions page 7. 

7. Adverse Findings

This question asks you to certify that no adverse finding has been made against any party to your application in any civil or criminal proceeding related to any felony, mass media related antitrust or unfair competition, fraudulent statements to the government, or discrimination. In other words, none of your board members have been found guilty of these acts. For the purpose of this question, you only need to consider the past ten years. 

If a party to your application has adverse findings against him/her in the last ten years, you must select ‘No’ and submit materials for Exhibit 9 explaining your situation (see Form 318 instructionsdismissed. The FCC will review your exhibit and determine whether the situation warrants dismissal of your application. If others file competing applications, the FCC may look less favorably on your application if you select ‘No’ to Question 7.

8. Unlicensed Operation

You are not eligible for an LPFM license if you organization, or any of the parties to your application (ie, your board members), has ever operated an unlicensed (i.e. pirate) station. This is now a federal law and the FCC cannot grant a waiver. Lying to the FCC on this question is considered perjury, and if discovered will result in your application being dismissed or your license revoked. There is no specific rule regarding station volunteers who may have been affiliated with unlicensed stations in the past.

9. Anti-Drug Abuse Act Certification

Question 9 is asking a very limited and specific question. It is likely that even people who have been convicted of possession or use of illegal drugs will be able to answer "yes" to this question. Question 9 is asking about a special law, 21 U.S.C. § 862, that authorizes a judge to take away certain federal benefits because of a conviction for distribution or possession of illegal drugs. Question 9, however, also might apply to individuals not listed in Question 3. If you are a membership association and you have questions about who Question 9 applies to, contact UCC or an attorney. Answer "yes" if no one in Question 3 has been convicted of possessing or using illegal drugs. In addition, answer "yes" if someone was convicted of possession or use of illegal drugs, but did not lose benefits under 21 U.S.C. § 862

When you finish Section II, click ’Save’ and then ‘Menu’.



On the menu page, click ‘Section III - Point System Factors and Section IV - Involuntary Time-Share Information and Section V - Certification’ to move on to Section III of the application. 

Section III - Point System Factors

In crowded areas, the FCC will get many more LPFM applications than there are available frequencies. Applicants who are competing in the same area are considered to be “mutually exclusive” (abbreviated as MX), meaning that only one group can get the license. A group of competing applicants is called an “MX group.” Unless every applicant in an MX group agrees to share the frequency, the FCC uses a point system to determine which applicant(s) will win the LPFM license. In this event, an application will be thrown out if it is not at least tied for the greatest number of points within an MX group. From here the remaining applicants will have an opportunity to decide among themselves how to share the frequency.

 The FCC awards one point for each of the following criteria:

See below for more detailed rules.

1. Established community presence.

Select ‘Yes’ for only one of the three fields in question (1). 

If your organization is a nonprofit educational organization, you must meet both of the following criteria:

  • the nonprofit organization has existed as a nonprofit for at least two years;
  • the organization has been physically headquartered, has had a campus, or has had at least 75% of its members living within 10 miles of the proposed antenna site (20 miles if outside of the top 50 urban markets for at least two years.

If you claim a point under this criteria, you must submit materials for Exhibit 10. The exhibit must include evidence of the date that your organization began as a nonprofit and the location of its headquarters, campus, or board members’ homes over the previous two years. To show your organization’s period of existence, you can use copies of corporate charters, articles of incorporation, or documents from government agencies. To demonstrate location of the headquarters or board members’ residences, you can submit a sworn affidavit.  These should be the same documents that you use in Exhibit 2 (Section II, under Eligibility).

2. Local program origination

Select ‘Yes’ only if your organization pledges to locally produce at least eight hours of programming per day. This does not include non-local rebroadcasts, automated programs, or any program that is broadcast more than twice.

3. Main studio

Select ‘Yes’ if your organization pledges to keep a publicly accessible main studio that is:

  • able to produce local programming;
  • reachable by telephone;
  • staffed at least 20 hours per week between 7 am and 10 pm;
  • located within 10 miles of the proposed antenna site (20 miles if outside of the top 50 urban markets).

Keep in mind that most rooms can be converted into a studio space at relatively little cost. If you do select ‘Yes’, you will need to include an address and telephone number for the proposed studio space. You may change this later by filing an amendment to your application. However, your original location must meet the requirements above.

4. Local program origination and main studio

Select ‘Yes’ if you selected ‘Yes’ for both (2) and (3).  Bonus point!

5. Diversity of ownership

Select ‘Yes’ if no party to your application has ownership or attributable interest in any broadcast station. Most organizations will be able to qualify for this point. However, if your organization is a local chapter of a national organization with broadcast holdings, or a student stations at a university with another radio station, you must select ‘No.’

6. Tribes or Tribal organization

Select ‘Yes’ if your organization is a Tribe or Tribal Organization that is proposing to locate its transmitting antenna on Tribal Lands.


Section IV - Involuntary Time-Share Information

This section only becomes relevant in the rare case that tied competing groups cannot resolve their competition through a voluntary timeshare or other settlement agreement. In that rare circumstance, the FCC will institute an involuntary timeshare. If there are more three remaining tied groups, the FCC will select the three organizations that have been in their communities the longest and mandate that these organizations share a single station.

 

To determine which organizations have been in the area the longest, this section asks for the date at which your organization qualified as local, and after which you remained continuously local. This is generally the date at which your organization was incorporated as a nonprofit, but it could be the date when you moved to your current location. Fill out this date and select ‘Yes’ if your organization has continuously remained local since this date.  If you select ‘No’, your organization will be given the least priority in an involuntary timeshare situation.


Section V - Certification

 

This section is to certify that everything you submitted in Sections I through IV is true and accurate. The person who prepares your application and can attest to its accuracy should be the one who certifies it. This is usually someone from your organization, but it could be a lawyer or consultant. There is a separate certification for the technical section of the application, as you may have an engineer prepare that section.

When you have completed Sections III, IV, and V, click ’Save’ and then ‘Menu’ to move on to the technical part of the application. 


Section VI - LPFM Engineering

Congratulations! You have completed the non-technical portion of Form 318. For information on how to complete Section VI, the technical section of the LPFM application, please refer to a separate guide, the Prometheus Radio Project’s The Low Power FM application: What you need to know for the technical section.


Saving and Submitting your Application

You can only submit your application during the filing window from October 15-29.  However, you can start completing Form 318 at any time (and should start as soon as possible!).  

 

As you complete each section of Form 318, you should click on ‘Validate’ at the bottom of each page to check that you have filled in all required sections. If a required section is left blank, a pop-up window will alert you.

You can save your draft online and return to it at any time before you submit during the filing window. When you return to work on your application, your saved form can be found at the bottom of the CDBS homepage, under ‘Work in Progress’. If you instead re-click the link for Form 318, you will end up starting the application anew.

 

When you have completed Form 318, you should select your form under ‘Work in Progress’ and click ‘Test File’.  This will ensure that all sections of the application have been completed. 

When you are finally ready to submit during the October 15-29 filing window, again select your form and click ‘File Form’ and follow the directions.  Once your application is filed, you cannot return to it.  You should also print a copy for your records.