“Do”s and “Don’t”s of LPFM Broadcasting
Here are some things you must or must not do in regards to broadcasts on LPFM. Much of this is from the FCC’s publication The Public and Broadcasting and a lot of it applies to all broadcasts and not just LPFM:
You CAN NOT broadcast:
- “Hoaxes”. Think of the legendary War of the Worlds broadcast.
- Calls to riot or other lawless action.
- Willful distortion of the news. I can hear the snickering now that most news is distorted anyway. Free Speech rights give a ton of leeway here.
- Obscene, indecent, or profane programming. Again, Free Speech rights apply but many court cases have given the FCC the power to limit speech that is deemed offensive. It can be somewhat subjective. From the hours of 10 p.m. to 6 p.m. the restrictions are loosened somewhat. Still, some profanity or sexuality explicit material will not be acceptable at any time.
- Commercials. LPFM is strictly non-profit.
- Broadcast official station identification at the top of every hour.
- Disclose rules for any contests or promotions.
- Have permission to broadcast phone calls.
- Acknowledge gifts or sponsorship for air time. See payola.
- Provide equal opportunity and time for candidates running for office.
Other than these general guidelines, the FCC really doesn’t care about what you broadcast. They do not care if you play music or what kind of music it is (as long as you have the proper license!). They do not care if you are right wing or left wing politically. They do care if you are sectarian in you religious positions. That is all considered First Amendment Free Speech rights.
Special Notes for Religious Broadcasters
Much of the information out there on LPFM stations is geared towards “community” stations that extremely eclectic and open to practically everything to be broadcast. I have no problem with those sort of stations, and honestly I think it is very neat concept. But there are a few things I have come across that I think are important for when a church or ministry is the one operating a LPFM station.
First, there is a loophole for equal opportunity employment requirements. From the FCC: “The FCC requires all licensees of radio and TV stations afford equal opportunity in employment. We also prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. However, religious stations are permitted to require that some or all of their employees meet a religious qualification.”
Second, you have a little more flexibility with a “call to action” in underwriting when talking about a church or non-profit. While you cannot say “come see Jim at Jim’s Plumbing” you can say “come join us this Sunday at church”. I would still be very careful here. RECnet has a good FAQ on this.