LPFM Filing Windows and Process
Updated December 15, 2023
The primary lesson we can learn from the first filing windows for LPFM is that this process will require a lot of patience. Some groups will be waiting up to 10 years from the time they applied for their LPFM application to the time when they can actually turn on the transmitter and go on the air.
The first set of filing windows had some roadbumps, mostly because of major changes in the LPFM rules in the middle of the series of filing windows. This resulted in additional remedial windows to fix the problems.
From Application to Permit
Assuming that there are no curveballs like there was in the first set of filing windows, this is the process to get you from your original application to getting your construction permit (CP) granted.
Initial Filing Window. This is where the FCC will accept applications for new LPFM stations. It's also very possible that in the next window that the FCC will also accept applicatios for "major changes". A major change involves a move of the station a distance of more than 5.6 km (for LP-100) and/or a channel change to a channel other than a first, second or third adjacent or Intermediate Frequency (IF, 10.6 or 10.8 MHz). In the first filing window, the FCC assigned each state and territory into one of 5 filing windows. Those states could only apply during their assigned filing window. In the second and third filing windows (2013/2023), it was for all states.
Acceptance for Filing for singletons. If the FCC has determined that your application was properly filled out and there are no competing LPFM applications, your application will be accepted for filing. This will result in a comment window where any party can file a Petition to Deny (PTD) against your application. For LPFM stations, this period is 30 days. LPFM applicants receiving petitions to deny have experienced delays, some for years. Applicants have the right to reply to Petitions to Deny. In addition, any party can file an "informal objection" (IO) anytime during the application process (including prior to it being accepted for filing). Some have said that IOs carry much less weight than a PTD however some of REC's best contraversial LPFM dismissals have been as a result of IOs.
Determination of Mutually Exclusive (MX) applicants. For those applicants whose proposed facilities conflict with other proposed facilities, there is a process to determine how these situations will be handled. See our section on MX applicants.
For the 2023 filing window, we are expecting the FCC will publish the MX list around January 31, 2024 and that the first singleton grants will take place in late mid to late March.
Construction Permit Grant. Once the FCC has determined that your application is acceptable for filing and any MX, Petition to Deny and Informal Objection issues are overcome , the FCC will grant you a permit to start building your station. Construction Permits (CP) are valid for 36 months. Prior to the grant of the construction you CAN'T start the construction of your transmission system such as the installation of a transmitter, the erection of the tower or the placement of the antenna on the tower. Prior to construction, you CAN build your studio (as that can be used for non-broadcast purposes) and you can even pour concrete footings for a tower but you can not build anything related to the transmission plant, including the tower structure itself.
Obtain Call Sign. Once your CP has been issued, you may obtain a call sign. Once you have a call sign, you may start program testing. You can not turn the transmitter on without a call sign! Program Test Authority allows you to operate the station as a normal LPFM station. You may run regular programming and are not limited to just running tones and IDs.
File License to Cover. Once you have completed your station's construction and you are on the air, the next step is to file an application (license to cover construction permit) to the FCC to indicate you have completed construction and you are on the air. (For consecutive license grants, the application is filed once the station is built, see MX) We do note that the FCC tends to approve these applications in batches. Many licensees can wait months for this to be granted. As long as you have filed your "License to Cover" application (and you are not a part of a consecutive license), you may continue to broadcast.
License to Cover granted. Once the FCC finally grants your license to cover, you are fully licensed.
Renewal. Every 8 years, the FCC requires all broadcast licensees to renew their licenses. The renewal dates are based on what state the station is located in.
Filing Window Timeline
Just to give you an idea of how long it takes to get licensed, here is a timeline of the first round of LPFM filing windows. Now remember, this round had some "curveballs" in it because of the Radio Broadcast Preservation Act that imposed third adjacent channel protections.
|FCC approves LPFM.
|LP-100 filing window I for Alaska, California, District of Columbia, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Mariana Islands, Maryland, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Utah.
|LP-100 filing window II for Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, Virginia, and Wyoming.
|LP-100 filing window III for American Samoa, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Missouri, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
|FCC codifies the Radio Broadcast Protection Act. Imposes third adjacent channel restrictions to all LPFMs including those already applied for.
|LP-100 filing windows IV and V combined into a single window for Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Guam, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.
|Remedial filing window for LPFM applicants impacted by the Radio Broadacst Protection Act restrictions.
|The St. Patty's Day Massacre. LPFM applicants who could not comply with the new third adjacent channel restrictions had their applications dismissed.
|Settlement window for mutually exclusive applicants in LPFM windows I, II and III.
|Settlement window for mutually exclusive applicants in LPFM windows VI and V.
|LPFM Filing Window for original construction permits and major changes.
|Settlement window for mutually exclusive applicants in AK, AZ, CA, CO, HI, KS, Kansas City MO, NE, NV, OR, UT and WA.
|Settlement window for mutually exclusive applicants in CT, DC, DE, IL, IN, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VA, VT, WI and WV.
|Settlement window for mutually exclusive applicants in AL, AR, FL, GA, LA, MS, OK, PR and TX.
|Third Generation LPFM Filing Window for original construction permits. (Major changes are handled like new applications with a divestiture pledge.)