Radio News: LPFM station numbers shrinking now, but may grow soon
Susan Ashworth from Radio World talks with Jim George, the nation's number one expert on low-power FM stations around the country. Until 2001, the Federal Communications Commission did not license FM stations under 100 watts. But in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, countless pirate radio stations showed there were plenty of spaces small FM signals could serve community interests by filling the airwaves with local voices. Congress eventually relented to the pressure from the pirates, and allowed low-power FM stations to be licensed. George began tracking the stations in 2001 with his LPFM Database website. He reports the number of LPFM stations is shrinking. "There has definitely been an uptick in cancelled LPFMs in recent years. Some can be attributed to the ongoing pandemic, but a lot of it is simply a lack of funding," George said. "Without the support of listeners and underwriting from local businesses, LPFMs cannot survive." Eight stations have shuttered just in the past month, to bring the total in the United States to 1,992. Alaska's KAQU-LP 88.1 in Sitka that featured nothing but an underwater microphone picking up whale sounds is one of the station's that has shuttered since low-power radio was made legal. In New York, George's database lists 50 stations on air currently. Locally, they include Palenvill'es WLPP-LP (102.9-FM) from the Maetreum Of Cybele, Magna Mater Inc.; Albany's WOOA-LP (106.9-FM) from the Green Education And Legal Fund Inc.; and WCAA-LP (107.3-FM) from the Grand Street Community Arts Inc.; Troy's WOOC-LP (105.3-FM) run by The Sanctuary for Independent Media; Ellenville's WELV-LP (107.9-FM) run by the Ellenville Central School District; Woodstock's WIOF-LP (104.1-FM) from Birds Of A Feather Media Ltd.; and Pawling's WPWL-LP (103.7-FM) from Pawling Public Radio Inc. George says he believes the FCC will soon accept new applications to allow more citizens access to their own airwaves. "I think the FCC is planning on opening a new LPFM filing window at some point [soon], so those of you out there who are interested in applying for a station should be on the lookout for a press release from the FCC," George said. NOTE: WGXC is a full-power station, broadcasting 3,300 watts. Read more about this story in Radio World.