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.
FM noncommercial commercial stations may be authorized on 88.1 MHz to 91.9 MHz, corresponding to Channels 201 through 220. No commercial operation is permitted on these frequencies. FM noncommercial educational stations may also be authorized in the commercial FM band under the technical rules applying to that service (see the preceding section). Contour protection is used to determine if interference will exist to other stations (see 47 CFR 73.509).
No allotment; no contour overlap. For noncommercial educational stations on Channels 201 through 220, no allotment will be established. Allocation is made via an on-demand system, with applicants receiving construction permits for facilities which will not cause interference to other stations. Interference calculations are made using specified signal strength contours, where protected service contours (think of a rough circle at some distance from the transmitter site) for one station generally cannot overlap the interfering contours for another station (see rule section 47 CFR 73.509). Applicants must also protect pending applications which were filed before the announcement of the application filing window.
NOTICE: THE FCC IS NOT ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR NEW FM NONCOMMERCIAL EDUCATIONAL BROADCAST STATIONS AT THE PRESENT TIME.
The Media Bureau will announce a filing window period during which new noncommercial educational station applications and major change applications may be filed. Filing window announcements will be made on this website.
Low Power FM Radio Stations
Low power FM stations operate with 1 to 100 watts of power and cover a radius of approximately 5.6 km (3.5 miles).
Applications for new LPFM stations may only be filed during the dates specified for an application filing window. Applications received at other times will be returned without consideration. We cannot provide advance information as to when the next application filing window may be, but when announcement is made, it will be posted on this website.
Translator FM Radio Stations
FM translator stations rebroadcast existing FM stations to small areas. Noncommercial educational FM translators may be authorized on any frequency, while FM translators rebroadcasting commercial stations must stay on frequencies from 92.1 MHz to 107.9 MHz (Channels 221 to 300). Translator stations are prohibited from transmitting any programming not also transmitted on the originating or primary station at the same time.
Noncommercial applicants are not required to submit the application filing fee. Noncommercial FM translator applications for new stations must be filed (in triplicate) with the Office of the Secretary, Room TW B204, FCC, 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC 20554.
NOTICE: APPLICATIONS FOR NEW COMMERCIAL OR NONCOMMERCIAL EDUCATIONAL TRANSLATORS MAY NOT BE FILED AT THE PRESENT TIME. The Media Bureau will announce a filing window period at intervals during which new 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.