FCC Application Glossary

It’s All Greek To Us, Too!  

Sometimes it is impossible to figure out what the hell the FCC is talking about. They are not doing it just to confuse you. All fields of human activity develop specialized lingo. You probably use some yourself in your chosen field- maybe “post- structuralist” rolls easily off your tongue, or “dormer” or “dorsal vertebrae,” or “electro-clash” or “a 4 inch nipple, 5/8” or “deliverable” or “do-se-do” or “Scotty.” 

Below are the terms you might need to know get a radio license, if you choose that endeavor over being a plumber or a contra-dancer…

Account Maintenance - This is the section of the FCC’s Consolidated Database System (CDBS) where you go to edit your organization’s information, like name, address, email, and phone number.

Adverse Findings - On your LPFM application, “adverse findings” would mean being found guilty of a felony, antitrust case, lying to the government, or discrimination by a court or administrative body in the last ten years.

Anti-Drug Abuse Act Certification - This is the part of the LPFM application where you verify that no parties to the application have been charged with drug possession or drug trafficking that has made them ineligible for federal benefits.

Applicant Name - This is where your organization’s name goes on the LPFM application. This is NOT where your name goes. Under no circumstances should an individual person’s name go here!

Application to Cover a Construction Permit - So you’ve been awarded a Construction Permit (CP) and built your station, and now it’s time to go on the air. The application to Cover a Construction Permit is your actual license to broadcast. You must apply for it within ten days of testing out your station on the air.  It is Form 319 in the CDBS. Don’t forget about this!

Call Sign - A call sign is 4-letter identifier for your radio station that begins with K or W. (Stations located west of the Mississippi begin with K, stations east begin with W.) You get to choose your call sign after you receive your Construction Permit (CP), so it should be blank on your initial application. If you’re granted a CP, you can use the FCC Call Sign Reservation and Authorization System to find and reserve an available call sign at http://licensing.fcc.gov/prod/callsign/main.html. Since LPFM stations’ 4-letter call signs are followed by an -LP ending, existing call letters in other services (like FM, AM, or TV) can be reused if you get their written permission (i.e. WXYZ-FM already exists, but an LPFM can apply for WXYZ-LP with their permission).

CDBS - The Consolidated Databases System is the system you must use to electronically file your application with the FCC. You MUST file your application electronically within the October 15-29 window, so get comfortable with the CDBS early! It’s a little daunting, but find Form 318, read the instructions, and use our Application Guide. That should make it easier.

Character Issues - This question on the application only applies to legal character issues that are unresolved from previous broadcast license applications. If no board member has ever applied for a broadcast license before, answer “yes” and move on. If the FCC has raised character issues about your organization or board members before, see the Character Issues section of our Application Guide. Note: this is not an opportunity to discuss the personality traits of your board members!

Construction Permit (CP) -  When you fill out Form 318 to apply for a LPFM frequency you are applying for a Construction Permit. A CP is the document issued by the FCC that grants you permission to build a station. This means you beat out the other applicants competing for the available frequency. Once you are ready to go on air you then apply for an Application to Cover a Construction Permit, which is your license to begin broadcasting.

Corporation - A corporation is not just another word for an organization. In order to be a corporation, your organization must be incorporated with the state.

Exhibit - Some questions on the application require more than just a “yes” or “no”. For these you will enter “exhibits.” Think of them as documentation to prove your answers to certain questions on the application. There will be a button to enter the exhibit on the application. You will then have an option to type your exhibit into a text box, or to attach it as a PDF.  You could do both, if you wanted to.

Facility ID
- This number is assigned to applicants by the FCC. It will automatically appear on your application!

Filing Window - The period of time within which you must submit your application to the FCC. Like a window, it opens and closes, and once closed your application cannot get in! The window opens October 15th, 2013, and closes October 29th, 2013 at 6pm (EST) . You can (and should) work on your application early, but you cannot file the application early OR late! Don’t miss this window, because it may be the last chance to apply for a spot on the FM dial!

Form 318 - This form is the application for a Construction Permit for an LPFM station. If you want a station, you need to apply with this form on the FCC's website. Check out our Step-By-Step Guide to Form 318 in our Application Guide.

Form Instructions - These instructions are on the FCC’s website, but are easy to miss. They are in PDF form at the bottom of the screen after you choose which application you want (remember, you want Form 318), or at the top of the page in the first section of the application. You should save the PDF right away. Consult it if you’re confused about anything, or turn to our Application Guide.

Form Title -- Description - This is your opportunity to name your application for your own purposes. It is so you can keep your applications straight if you are applying for something else in the CDBS. You can name it what you want and change it whenever, so don’t worry too much about this.

Immediate Family Members
- You immediate family members are defined as your husband, wife, brother, sister, mother, father, son, or daughter.

Informal Objection - If you don’t think an applicant should be eligible for a LPFM station, you can make an informal objection to the FCC. This is similar to a petition to deny, but with a little less legal weight. The FCC is not required to respond to an informal objection, but they are required to reply to a petition to deny. In practice, they generally reply to either.

Investor Insulation - This is a worksheet that helps figure out if certain investors or creditors in your organization need to be listed as parties to your application. The FCC wants to make sure that investors and creditors that have power in the organization are listed as a party to the application.

- See Application to Cover a Construction Permit.

Local Program Origination - You can get a bonus point (see Point System) toward your Construction Permit for having eight hours of local programming every day. A local DJ selecting music is locally produced programming, but any repetitive or automated programming is not.

Main Studio - You can get a bonus point (see Point System) for having a public, accessible studio that can originate local programming, be reached by phone, is staffed for twenty hours a week between 7am and 10pm, and is located within 10 miles of its antenna in a top 50 market and 20 miles in a market outside the top 50.

Mutually Exclusive (MX) - MX applications are competing for the same frequency.  A group of applications competing for the same frequency is called a “MX group.” If there is a MX group competing for one frequency, the point system is used to rule out applicants (see Point System).

Non-Competing Applicants - These lucky applicants, also referred to as “Singletons” by the FCC, have no other station application competing for their space on the radio dial. Non-competing applicants get to proceed with the licensing process since there is no competition for their frequency.

Nonprofit Educational Organization - Any organization applying for a LPFM license that is not a tribe, school, or public safety organization must be a nonprofit educational organization.  This just means that your organization must have educational goals that a radio station would help you further.  The FCC defines “educational purpose” very broadly, and you don’t have to be an educational organization in the traditional sense-- your station could educate people about local music or social justice issues affecting your community.

Parties to the Application - These are the people with an attributable interest in your organization. Most likely these are just your board members/directors. See our the Parties to the Application section of the Application Guide for more details.

Petition for Reconsideration - This is a formal letter filed to the FCC from an applicant if they do not like how the FCC ruled on their application. Commonly called "Recon," it basically explains why the FCC’s decision is wrong, and asks for a change in ruling.

Petition to Deny - This is a formal objection to a LPFM application or licensure. Anyone party of interest from the general public, including other applicants, can file against applicants/licensees if they have reason to believe that the station or applicant in question doesn’t serve the public’s interest.  This allows for dissent to be collected before the next step in the licensing process is granted to the applicant or station (construction permit, license to cover, or license renewal, depending what stage the process is in).

Point System - This is how the FCC decides between LPFM applications fighting for the same frequency. It has been changed since the last LPFM window and now there are more points up for grabs. Any applications that are not tied for the lead in number of points for any specific mutually exclusive group (see MX) will be dropped. See the Point System Factors in the Application Guide for more details.

Public Safety Radio Service
- This is a station that provides a service that helps protect people’s health, life, or property. An example might be an emergency traffic or weather alert service. It is usually be done by governments, but can be non-government nonprofit organizations as well.

Singletons - See Non-Competing Applicants.

Tech Box - The first seven questions of the technical section of the LPFM application make up the Tech Box. In it you must give accurate technical information about your proposed station, including the frequency you are applying for and the latitude and longitude of your antennae location. You may need to consult with an engineer to fill it out.

Technical Settlement - A technical settlement occurs if more than one applicant applies for the same frequency, but there is another frequency (or frequencies) that did not have any applicants, at which point a mutually exclusive applicant can submit an application for the available frequency.

- A timeshare is when more than one group shares a radio frequency. Mutually exclusive applicants can try to reach a universal timeshare settlement, in which all mutually exclusive applicant groups share the frequency, or a partial timeshare settlement, in which some of the groups cooperate to share a frequency. If there is no voluntary agreement the FCC will grant an involuntary timeshare settlement to the three organizations with the longest consistent presence in their community.

Top 50 Markets - The FCC uses the Arbitron Radio Market Rankings to identify the top 50 radio markets in the US. You can find the list at http://www.arbitron.com/home/mm001050.asp. For instance Jacksonville just makes it at 50, and Memphis is on the outside looking in at 51.

Tribal Organization - A nonprofit entity that is at least 51% controlled by a tribe.

Tribe - Any Indian or Alaskan tribe that is recognized by the federal government.

Unlicensed Operation - This refers to the unlicensed operation of a radio station. The FCC wants you to certify that you have never operated a “pirate” radio station, or a station without a license from the FCC.

Worksheets - These are addendums to the application to help you answer certain questions. They do not need to be submitted, but a completed worksheet may be helpful if you are requested to show compliance with your answer.