What is this proposal all about?
Currently, the FM broadcast band goes from 88.1 to 107.9 on the dial. That is 100 channels for which in many areas, there is a radio station about every 2 to 3 channels. The lower part of the FM band (88.1~91.9, 20 channels) is reserved for noncommercial educational (NCE) FM broadcast stations. Stations in this area include your local NPR stations, community radio stations as well as local and national religious broadcasters. The proposal will extend the FM band so it will be 76.1 to 107.9 on the dial. This extension will make room for more NCE FM stations. Our proposal calls for full-power NCE FM stations to also have access to 20 channels in the area beween 83.1~86.9 on the dial. In some areas of the country where there is a Channel 6 TV station, the 20 channels will be between 77.1~80.9 on the dial.
Do I need a new radio?
In order to listen to the new stations, you will need a radio with "WIDE-FM" capability. A small number of radios, including some aftermarket automotive entertainment systems may have a menu option to enable the extended band. If the new channels are approved by the FCC, it may take time for new radios to be available in the United States.
Are these radios already made?
Yes. They are currently sold in Japan and Brazil. Both countries have recently extended their FM band in a manner similar to what we are proposing in the USA. We also note that a major international organization has recommended the use of the 76~88 MHz band for FM sound broadcasting in areas where the spectrum is not being used for digital television. Since the conversion to digital television, only the United States, Canada, Mexico and a couple of islands in the Caribbean are using the 76~88 MHz band for TV.
Will I need a new radio to receive the stations I already listen to?
No. Your current FM radios that pick up 87.7~107.9 will still work just fine. You will just not be able to pick up any of the new stations.
I listen to a great radio station on 87.7 FM. Is that going to change?
Those radio stations are actually services of low power television stations that can be received with a standard FM radio. REC feels that these niche services are best handled by noncommercial FM and LPFM stations without a commercial motivation. In the event the FCC wishes to keep these services, REC has recommended (but not officially proposed) rule changes with the FCC that specifically address the stations that operate on 87.7 FM across the country. Some of those stations may see an improvement in their services as a result of this change. The FCC never intended for these Channel 6 TV stations to operate FM services, but it does work, and currently, it is allowed. Your existing radio will continue to receive those stations as long as the FCC continues to allow their operation.
So, there's a possibility that 87.7 FM is going away?
The FCC is currently looking at many options right now. The way that the 87.7 stations operated on the air was a general part of the way that analog television worked. In mid-2021, the FCC ordered the remaining analog low-power TV stations to shut down or switch to digital television. This would have taken the 87.7 FM stations off the air. Some did go off the air. 13 of these stations managed to come up with a technology that would combine an analog FM signal on 87.7 with a digital television signal and the FCC has been allowing these operations under special permission. A part of the recent FCC inquiry is addressing what should happen to these stations. If the FCC decides to create a commercial allotment on 87.7, these stations will be preserved in a way that is more compatible with radio broadcasting as opposed to television broadcasting.
If I was to purchase a new radio, what should I expect to hear?
This will depend on the organizations that apply for licenses. It may take a few years for the 76~88 area to develop. REC's proposal calls for the first opportunities to be reserved for established local organizations, thus increasing the variety of localism, which helps enrich the local community. It also gives new opportunities for ethnic and other communities to finally be represented on the radio.
This is being proposed by NPR, I don't like NPR, it's all propaganda. Why should I support it?
The First Amendment is a great thing because it allows the freedom for people to express themselves, including opinions that you agree with and those you may disagree with. If this is approved, it will not be limited to just NPR stations and NPR content. Any estabished nonprofit organization with an educational purpose will be able to apply for a radio station. This includes secular and faith-based organizations.
Is this website or your organization associated with NPR?
No. We are not associated in any way with NPR. This site is operated by REC Networks, which is dedicated to a citizen's access to the airwaves through the creative use of our nation's spectrum resource. REC works with community-based radio stations and other organizations aspiring to be broadcasters, faith-based and secular, liberal and conservative and everything in between.
Should I purchase a new radio right now?
These radios are currently hard to find in the United States and it would be a little premature to purchase one now.
What can I do to show my support?
Until the FCC takes some action to collect comments specifically on the WIDE-FM proposal, you can tell your friends about it. Also, let your federal elected officials know that you want to see the FM band extended down to 76 in order to open the door for new local broadcasting.