Antenna sites have to be spaced at least certain distances from other radio stations which operate on related frequencies, as you can read about in FCC regulations 73.807 and 73.525. Software is usually used to verify whether a site meets the spacing requirements. Use our quick frequency finder for a cursory glance, and to go deeper we suggest that you try out our RFree software, which is designed for this. REC Networks also offers mylpfm.com and the FCC’s LPFM channel finder is a good start too. Many applicants would be well served by working with an engineer, perhaps Prometheus.
Once you have a compliant site, you’ll need reasonable assurance from the owner of the site. Potential site owners can have a lot of fears and confusion when you approach them about putting an antenna on their property. To start that conversation, you can share our one-page, mostly photos, information sheet for property owners about LPFM antennas and supports.
Antenna Site Priorities
It’s natural for radio stations (and applicants) to change antenna sites through the years perhaps as the budget grows, to reduce ongoing costs, because a lease is expiring and so on. Better-coverage sites tend to be more expensive and sometimes harder to find and develop, and can involve applying for zoning variances — which are costs and risks a new applicant may want to avoid. First antenna sites and future antenna sites can have different priorities.
Competitors, possibly Aggressive
Unless there are plenty of usable frequencies in your area, competition is likely. It’s nice to think as LPFM as a cooperative and friendly space, but the FCC process is dog-eat-dog competitive, and applicants are expecting their paid service providers and lawyers to win, and usually don’t care how as long as it’s legal. You can ask your providers to prioritize cooperative solutions over killing competitors! Competitors may rat you out to the HOA, or to the zoning board, (even just to tie you up in legal bills and paperwork), or try to condemn your technical exhibits, or claim you’re on a historical site, and these things have been fatal for LPFM applicants and even operating LPFM stations. Your first site may get very-deeply scrutinized by competitors in an effort to get your application thrown out, so you may want to prioritize an unquestionably-boringly-compliant site over the best coverage or lowest cost.
New applicants may also be under time pressure, and searching for sites and attaining reasonable assurance to use the site can be time consuming. It’s often fastest to wrap up a low, zoning-complaint antenna on property owned by the organization or an ally, or on a commercial leased tower.
There’s Time for Changes Later
You’ll have from 3 to 5 years to build your first site depending on how fast your application is approved, during which time you can ask for FCC approval to change the site, and even the frequency, and perhaps get that zoning variance.