How to Apply for a Broadcast Station
In the following sections, we provide some basic information about radio and television stations and the related application processes.
Heavy Demand for New Broadcast Stations.
Potential applicants for radio and television services should be aware that frequencies for these services are always in heavy demand. For example, the Commission received approximately 30,000 inquiries from persons seeking to start radio broadcast stations last year. Where broadcast frequencies remain available, competing applications are routinely received. Thus, you are cautioned at the outset that the filing of an application does not guarantee that you will receive a broadcast station construction permit. You should also be aware that in many areas of the country, no frequencies may be available on which a new station could commence operating without causing interference to existing stations, which would violate FCC rules. For that reason, we do not recommend that you purchase any equipment before receiving a construction permit from the FCC.
Expansion of the AM or FM radio bands is unlikely to occur in the near future. The FM band is constrained from expanding above 107.9 MHz by the presence of aeronautical operations on 108 MHz to 136 MHz, and is also prevented from expanding below 88.1 MHz by Channel 6 television operations on 82.0 through 88.0 MHz. The AM band was recently expanded from 1600 to 1700 kHz after years of international negotiations, however those frequencies are reserved for existing stations which were causing significant interference in the lower part of the band.
Unlicensed Operation Prohibited. A very common question asked to the FCC is whether broadcasting at very low power requires a license. Please be aware that unlicensed operation of radio broadcast stations is prohibited, even at such low powers such as 1 watt or less. The only unlicensed operation that is permitted on the AM and FM broadcast bands is covered under Part 15 of the FCC’s rules, and is limited to a coverage radius of approximately 200 feet. (See the Commission’s July 24, 1991 Public Notice.) Unlicensed operation is also not permitted in the television bands (including 87.9 MHz, which falls within the 82.0 to 88.0 Channel 6 television band). Fines and/or criminal prosecution may result from illegal operation of an unlicensed station.
Application Filing Fees. For commercial AM, FM, and TV broadcast station applications, filing fees must be paid with the submission of any application. These fees are detailed in the Media Bureau Fee Filing Guide, which may be retrieved through the Internet at http://www.fcc.gov/fcc-bin/audio/appfees.html.
Mutually Exclusive Commercial Auctions.Where conflicts occur between mutually exclusive commercial applicants (that is to say, where interference would be created between applicants were all applications to be granted), the conflict will be resolved by means of an auction. The auction process was mandated by Congress and the President in the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Fees and auction payments collected by the FCC are directed to the U.S. Treasury.
Information about the auction process is available on the Internet at http://wireless.fcc.gov/auctions/ (see also the general information about auctions). Please note that we cannot provide advance information as to when an auction or application filing window for a particular service might be opened. However, notice of an auction proceeding or an application filing window period will be posted on this website.
Mutually Exclusive Noncommercial Educational Applications. Noncommercial educational station conflicts with other timely filed noncommercial educational applicants (i.e., where interference would be created between stations were all applications to be granted) will be resolved through the application of a point system. The point system is described in the Report and Order in MM Docket 95-31, FCC 00-120, released April 21, 2000 [ PDF | Word | txt ]. See also the Memorandum Opinion and Order, MM Docket 95-31, FCC 01-64, released February 28, 2001 [ PDF | Word | txt ], [ Appendix D (PDF); Appendix D (Word) ].
The Media Bureau will announce a filing window period during which new radio station applications and major change applications may be filed. Filing window announcements will be made via public notice, and notice will also be posted on this website.