FCC announces first opportunity for small community radio stations in 12 years

First opportunity for small community radio stations in 12 years coming in October 2013
Prometheus Radio Project will help nonprofit groups to apply for licenses

November 30, 2012

Washington DC -- Today the Federal Communications Commission announced that for the first time in more than a decade, community groups nationwide will soon be able to start small, local radio stations. Nonprofit organizations, schools, Indian Tribes and public safety agencies can apply for Low Power FM (LPFM) stations in October 2013. For the first time ever, the agency will allow these noncommercial stations in urban areas. 

The news is long-awaited by the Prometheus Radio Project and its supporters, who led the grassroots coalition that pushed Congress to pass the Local Community Radio Act of 2010. The law expanded community radio by directing the FCC to make more channels available nationwide, reversing an earlier law that relegated stations to rural settings. The FCC implemented the law by creating more flexible rules on where new stations can be located. 

“Finally, communities without a voice on the airwaves will have a chance to control their own local media,” said Brandy Doyle, Policy Director for the Prometheus Radio Project. "Thanks to the significant step forward today, we will see a wave of new radio stations that better reflects the diversity of our country.”

The 800+ low power stations already on the air are run by nonprofit groups, colleges, churches, and emergency responders. Many, such as the Oregon farmworker station KCPN, offer local programming in languages other than English, often hard to find on the radio dial. KPCN, also known as Radio Movimiento, plays Spanish-language news and information, organizes voter registration drives, and plays traditional and contemporary music.

Low power stations are an accessible outlet for nonprofit organizations to engage their communities, costing as little as $10,000 to launch. Over 90% of Americans listen to radio at least once a week. 

“Radio is a great tool for reaching working people - it's free to listen, easy to produce, and people can often tune in on the job or while doing housework," said Milena Velis, Media Organizer and Educator with Philadelphia-based Media Mobilizing Project. “In Pennsylvania, we're facing big challenges, from education cuts to rural poverty to environmentally destructive shale drilling. We see community radio as a way to bring people together and create solutions from the ground up.”

"Just like New Mexico needs clean and healthy air, land, and water, we need healthy media, too,” said Rusita Avila of the Media Literacy Project in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “We’re excited because community radio can give us a place to tell our stories and speak our truth."

Those who want to apply for a station should start preparing now. Sign up for free updates and support from Prometheus, including access to application guides, free online trainings, and advice on getting started. Find out if there is an open frequency on your radio dial with the Prometheus zip code check tool. Join the online community at Radio Spark to connect with radio engineers and other applicants nationwide, or meet face-to-face at a public event on the Reclaim the Airwaves tour.

Press contact:
Brandy Doyle

Policy Director
Prometheus Radio Project