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Consultants Say LPFM Procrastinators Just Calling Now

Estimates of how many may file for LPFM vary widely

It’s hard to estimate how many applications will roll into the FCC for new low-power FMs, however we asked a few nonprofits and consulting engineering firms to take a stab at that based on the potential licensees they are helping and what the process is like.

Michi Bradley of REC Networks says pegging a figure will be hard and the industry needs to take into consideration how many filed applications may not be up to snuff. “We saw some defective and speculative applications in the first LPFM window and as we saw in Auction 83, the system can be abused,” she told Radio World. “Fortunately, LPFM has many safeguards and though applications can be filed, there’s no guarantee that they will be granted and in 2000–2001, the FCC did a great job sifting through the junk and I think this time, there will be a bigger junk pile.”

Her estimate is about 11,000 LPFM applications will be filed with the commission. Many would-be applicants are procrastinating, according to Bradley, who says she’s still getting requests for help.

“We are helping groups in varying degrees — from filling out applications directly to giving informal advice,” says Todd Urick of Common Frequency, who estimates his group has helped some 150 organizations. It’s hard to pin down an exact number he says, “because the process was muddled by the government shutdown, the ambiguity and complexity of FCC technical matters, and a such a short window for folks that never have filled out an FCC application before.” He also believes the FCC’s electronic filing system has been “noticeably slower” of late. It all begs for another extension of the window, according to Urick, and while his group joined others in asking for another week, there’s been no indication from the commission on whether that’s happening.

Leo Ashcraft of Nexus Broadcast says his group is working with some 200 applicants in this window. “Even with all of the time we had prior to this window opening, in the years of elapsed time between 2010 and today we lost a large portion of the interest we had in 2010 and 2011. Many had written off the possibility of another LPFM window,” according to Ashcraft, who says the momentum is just now starting to build from those that are not traditional broadcasters. Those that would not normally be looking to open a radio station are just now discovering the LPFM radio service, according to Ashcraft, who adds that some of those would-be applicants experience sticker shock when they hear the approximately $15,000 to $20,000 building cost.

He guesstimates some 5,000 applications may be filed overall.

John Broomall of Christian Community Broadcasters estimates some 6,000 application have been filed so far.

Experts anticipate the FCC would begin releasing grant information in the first quarter of the year.