How to Find Radio Station Licenses and More at the FCC in CDBS

Finding information about a radio station using the FCC web site can be difficult because there are different types of information organized in different ways in different locations, and the terminology can be unfamiliar. This guide explains one way to find information about a license (or a construction permit).

This guide will not explain how to use the FCC's "FM Query" system, which is richer in certain areas. You can find it with a web search.

1. Getting to the FCC Database

The FCC's database of radio stations is called CDBS and once you know that, an easy way to find your starting point is to search for: fcc cdbs search:
When you use "application search", the result will be a list of applications submitted plus links to other information about each one, including station licenses. Here's what the FCC CDBS application search page looks like:

2. Searching the FCC Database for a Station

Enter the call sign in the first box on the search form. If it is a LPFM station, be sure to add the "-LP" part, as shown in the example above. Sometimes applications are amended, and if you want to see the earlier versions, check the "Include Superseded Applications" at the bottom of the form.

Click [Submit]

3. Alternative to Steps 1 and 2

Use the RFree software developed by Prometheus. Go to and use either the quick search on the left or the more-detailed search on the right. The quick search usually works, and it doesn't require full call letters. Your cursor is probably already in the box, so type the call letters (or facility ID) and press the [return] key or the [LPFM] button. Use the [FM] button if you are searching for a non-LPFM station.
On the search results page, the "FCCa" link takes you to the same place as resulted from step 2 above. The other links go to other good sources of FCC information.

4. Using the FCC's Search Results

Every application submitted on behalf of the station is shown in the list, with the highest-numbered FCC form numbers at the top (e.g., form 319 comes before form 318), and within each form group, the newest ones are at the top of the group. For LPFM, the form 319 is used to request or renew a license, and the top one is the most-recent one.

The application link does what you expect -- showing an electronic copy of the application. Things get more interesting with the info link and this is where you can find the license.

The thing most people would call a license on this page is called an authorization -- it was issued by the FCC when the (license) application was granted.

The authorization link will take you, via an intermediate page, to a PDF document which should exactly match the one the FCC sent by surface mail when it was granted (sometimes it does not match). The "license" shows the authorized location, power out of the antenna (ERP), power out of the transmitter (TPO) to achieve that ERP, antenna height, and more. Most stations should have one or more copies of this posted.

Be sure to read through the "Special conditions" section at the end of the license.

5. Other Information

Since the terminology isn't obvious sometimes, here's an explanation of some other things available from the info page:
  • public notice comment shows what was, or will be, in the daily public notices published by the FCC.
  • correspondence folder is where you'll find petitions or objections to the application, and the replies to those, as well as letters sent by the FCC for example dismissing the application. Not all FCC letters will be shown there however.
  • legal shows the status of the petitions/objections

While it is not always intuitive, once you learn a few things about how it works, finding radio-station data at the FCC can be done.