Overall, low-power FMs generally do not have an economic impact on commercial FMs, nor are they expected to in the future.
That’s according to the FCC, which comes to that conclusion in a 100+ page report it has submitted to Congress.
Lawmakers, at the behest of broadcasters, required the report when they passed the Local Community Radio Act of 2010. The report was due Jan. 4.
NAB said it was reviewing the report’s findings.
Using information from its own database and the BIA/Kelsey commercial database, the commission concluded that LPFMs serve primarily small and rural markets and have geographic and population reaches that are “many magnitudes smaller” than those of full-service commercial FMs. It found that LPFMs generally have not been in operation as long as commercial FMs, have less of an Internet presence and offer different programming formats. It also found that the average LPFM located in an Arbitron Radio Metro Market has “negligible ratings” by all available measures and an audience size that lags far behind those of most full-service stations in the same market.
The FCC confirmed those findings with the results of a questionnaire filled out by eight LPFM managers, saying the case studies show that the eight LPFMs generally broadcast a variety of programming, operate with very small budgets, rely on mostly part-time and volunteer staff, do not have measurable ratings, have limited population reach, and do not generate significant underwriting earnings. “All but one of the station managers that we interviewed stated that the LPFM station is not competing directly for listeners with any specific full-service stations,” stated the FCC in the report.