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Low Power FM radio (LPFM) is a relatively inexpensive way for small groups to operate their own community radio stations, as long as they are used for noncommercial educational broadcasting.

The Federal Communications Commission authorized the creation of LPFM in January 2000, despite heavy opposition from traditional radio broadcasters. LPFM has grown quickly since then, with more than 800 groups now licensed to operate LPFM stations.

LPFM has been successful despite the fact that the FCC -- bowing to the wishes of big broadcasting companies -- has thus far limited it to rural areas and small communities. Big broadcasters claim LPFM causes interference with their signals, although many experts say that argument is dubious. Were the government to allow LPFM in big urban areas, it would likely reach millions of more people.  

True Community Radio

Increased concentration in the radio industry in the late 1990s helped drive the creation of LPFM, which was conceived as a way to better serve local communities with more diverse programming and to provide a way for less well-financed entities to enter the radio business and develop innovative programming. 

LPFM has become increasingly important as regular radio stations have continued to consolidate, and programming comes from one central office, not the local radio station.

Unlike a traditional radio station that covers a huge area and can cost millions of dollars to operate, LPFM stations only cover an area of two or three miles. Their small size means stations can often be built for less than $10,000, allowing small organizations to get on the airwaves. LPFM stations are increasingly offering communities more local and diversified programming than the big stations operated by media conglomerates.

The Fight for Low Power Radio Continues

Consumers Union is just one many public interest groups leading the charge in communities, the courts and Congress to make sure that LPFM becomes a reality for more Americans.  Prometheus Radio Project, Free Press and Media Access Project have all been at the forefront in advocating for the expansion of LPFM.

To learn more about LPFM, click on the links below.

Prometheus Radio Project LPFM Information Web Page

Prometheus Radio Project LPFM "Take Action" Web Page

Media Access Project LPFM Web Page

Federal Communications Commission LPFM Information Web Page

"HowStuffWorks" LPFM Information Web Page

National Low Power Broadcasters Association Web Page