Across the USA, hundreds of non-profit organizations, community organizations, schools from kindergarten to college, churches and ministries are operating Low Power FM (LPFM) radio stations.
The current LPFM radio service in the USA was created in 1999 to address a community need for radio stations that were focsed on the need of the local community in an environment where legislation such as the Telecommunications Act resulted in the consolidation of most radio stations to a small group of large corporate owners. Even within the non-commercial radio universe, more and more college-owned radio stations discontinued diverse, eclectic community and student programming in favor of NPR and classical music networks in order to make stations more self-sustaining in a competitive environment.
With the extensive concentration of the media, some people resorted to start broadcasting without a license. Broadcasting without a license is not only illegal and could result in fines and prison time (as well as a lifetime ban from holding an LPFM broadcast license), unlicensed transmitters can cause interference to other broadcast stations as well as interference to non-broadcast services such as aviation and first-responders.
To respond to the public demand for local radio stations and to address the issues why some resorted to unlicensed "pirate" operations, LPFM was created and so far there have been opportunities in 2000 and 2013 to obtain new stations.
Not everyone was happy about the creation of new low power FM radio stations, the commercial broadcast industry launched a campaign to claim that the new LPFM stations will cause interference to their stations and even provided a demonstration of "simulated" interference to members of Congress. In 2001, Congress passed the Radio Broadcast Preservation Act, which put additional restrictions on LPFM stations which limited their availability to mainly suburban and rural areas. After years of lobbying by grassroots organizations and national organizations as well as numerous tests to debunk commercial radio's myths about LPFM, Congress passed the Local Community Radio Act in 2011. The LCRA eased most of the restrictions put in place by the 2001 RBPA and as a result, LPFM was available to many urban areas including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
The purpose of the weNEEDradio campaign is to demonstrate to the FCC and lawmakers that there is a considerable demand for another generation of new LPFM stations. Our goal is get the FCC to open the next LPFM application filing window around 2021. A provision in the LCRA states that LPFM licenses are to be given out "based on community need". We need to demonstrate that "community need".