Broadcast Overview

How does the FCC allot new radio channels and how do I apply for one?

Assistance with applying for radio channels is mostly a dormant or intermittent service within CF.  This is because the FCC offers very few opportunities for parties to pursue this.  There is also a FCC bias towards commercial opportunities, especially since 2016, which the entry point for pursuit of these licenses requires significant investment.  Here are the types of services with commentary:

FM services are divided between "full power" stations (non-commercial, and commercial), and secondary service channels (lower power channels like LPFM and FM translators) 

Low Power FM (LPFM):  These are 100 watt FM services anywhere on the FM band that are licensed to nonprofits, educational institutions, religious groups, and governmental agencies.  To apply the FCC provides a public notice of a "filing window" -- a set of dates -- to apply for one.  It is unknown when the next opportunity will be announced.  But more than just scarce application opportunities, the FCC has already allocated most of the channels suitable for LPFM in urban area to another service called "FM translators".  Thus, most centralized urban areas do not have channel openings.  Outside of central cities might have openings, smaller cities might have openings, and rural areas are more likely to have openings.          

FM Translator: FM translators operate from 1 to 250 watts.  Their intent is to (A) rebroadcast a full power station (although it is legal to re-broadcast a LPFM station) in areas of blocking terrain or weak signal, (B) through a loop in the rules, rebroadcasting a digital HD-2 or HD-3 signal from a full power station to effectively create another radio station, and (C) to re-broadcast an AM radio stations on the FM band.

Full Power Commercial:  These stations operate up to 100,000 watts, and are licensed within a Class regime according to wattage.  A commercial stations is allocated via a rulemaking, and then the frequency goes to auction within a special bidding process.  The whole process from start to finish takes years and sufficient funds.

Full Power Non-commercial, Educational (NCE):  These station have the same wattage classes to Commercial licenses but are located under 92.1 FM.  They are granted via a "filing window" process.  They do not require funds for auction, but are granted upon a "point system".  All NCE channels in urban areas are essentially filled to capacity.  Rural opportunities may exist.  The last filing window was 2007, but one might be expected within the next couple years.  In certain cases, NCE channels may be reserved on open commercial channels where there is an open commercial channel, and one or no NCE channels serve the area.

Tip:  What is the entry point if you are endowed with cash and desire to enter the world of broadcasting?  Perhaps find a failing AM station that also owns an FM translator.  Or lease time on one of these stations.

Can a licensed LPFM (or other stations) be transferred (license assignment) to another party?

Yes. But sometimes there are specific prequalifications that need to be met. 

Are there TV licensing opportunities?

About nine years ago there was an opportunity to license Low Power Television channels.  Since, the FCC has been attempting to condense the TV band and reallocate spectrum for 5G and other data licensing regimes.  You can find LPTV stations for sale, but often LPTV subchannels are leased to third party programming.

How does one find if channels are open within a specific area?

This requires an cursory engineering study.  LPFM, Translator, NCE, and Commercial allocations all use different rules to determine open channels.