Dozens of new hyperlocal FM radio stations up for grabs

Dozens of brand new radio stations could hit the airwaves throughout the Puget Sound area, as the Federal Communications Commission opens up new frequencies for low-powered community radio.

Applicants will be vying to acquire a frequency on the FM band to operate a 10 watt non-commercial radio station.

"In a city like Seattle with hills and skyscrapers, you can reasonably expect low-power FM to reach two-and-a-half to three miles," says Sabrina Roach, a local public media specialist with Brown Paper Tickets.

She says the low coverage area allows for hyper-local programming. The low-wattage also makes it possible for up to eight station to operate in a single zip code.

Roach says this may be the only time the FCC offers low-power FM (LPFM) licenses in large urban markets. The offering became possible when President Obama signed the Local Community Radio Act in 2011

"The FCC announced rules that are very favorable to non-profits, faith-based organizations, schools, and emergency services organizations," Roach told a recent community forum on LPFM.

"All of these are eligible to apply for low-power FM," she said.

A two-week window to apply for the free FCC licenses was to have begun today, but the partial federal government shutdown has delayed that window.

Even after the government is up and running, the new stations won't go on the air overnight. It takes up to two years for the FCC to approve a new license.

The licenses are free, but startup costs for even a tiny radio station can reach thousands of dollars in equipment alone.

Fifteen nonprofit groups and universities are ready to apply for these low-powered FM licenses.

More information will be available public meeting set for 1 p.m. Tuesday at Pike Place Market, Atrium Loft on the top floor of the economy market

Organizers will provide a free lunch and present a map to reveal where the radio stations will likely be placed.


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