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Here’s What to Know About the November LPFM Window

FCC also plans a limited freeze on translator minor mod applications

Editor’s note: The window for filing applications for new LPFM stations has been pushed back. It will now run from Dec. 6 to Dec. 13. Learn more here

Anyone interested in applying for a low-power FM license in the upcoming window can now access the application form and start preparing.

The FCC Media Bureau issued a public notice giving an overview of the procedures, filing requirements and comparative selection process. (Read the notice.)

The bureau will accept LPFM applications for the entire FM band (Channels 201–300) during the window, which will open at 12:01 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023, and close at 6 p.m. EST on Nov. 8, 2023.

The commission will freeze LPFM and FM translator minor modification applications starting Sept. 1 until after the window.

An applicant for an LPFM in the window must be a nonprofit educational organization; a tribe or tribally-controlled entity; or a state or local government or a non-government entity that will provide a noncommercial public safety radio service. Nonprofit educational organizations are limited to one application. Tribal applicants can file two. Individuals can’t apply.

Applicants must be “local” as that term is defined in the commission’s rules.

Specific rules will apply for protecting other stations and authorizations by meeting minimum distance separation requirements. The FCC has an LPFM Channel Finder to help determine if a transmitter site would meet spacing requirements, though it doesn’t guarantee that channels that show up as “available” will be technically acceptable.

The commission is encouraging LPFM hopefuls to use a consulting engineer or other party familiar with LPFM technical rules, particularly if they’re requesting a second-adjacent channel spacing waiver.

The FCC in this window won’t accept applications for major modifications to existing LPFM stations, though a licensee that wants one can apply for a new station and note it in the application. In such cases the licensee would have to surrender the existing LPFM license before starting operation with a new CP.

Applicants will be required to file electronically on FCC Form 2100, Schedule 318 in the Media Bureau’s Licensing and Management System. Instructions on using the LMS are available on a help page.

The Media Bureau added that it is still processing 80 or so applications for CPs from the 2021 NCE FM filing window. Recognizing that those applicants might want to participate in the LPFM window if they believe they won’t be granted a full-service CP, the FCC is waiving a rule that would have blocked them from applying in the window; the public notice has details.

The notice also explains the commission’s system of “comparative consideration” and how it resolves mutually exclusive, or MX, groupings.