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Starting a radio station has for many years has been completely out of reach for the general public. Activists for a more democratic media have won a rare opportunity for you to apply for an extremely valuable radio station.
But we did not win a fundamental change in the system that made it more fair and open - just a brief moment when community groups can claim a thin sliver of the airwaves for local use. This chance will be gone in a few months, and radio will be back to business as usual until the next democratic victory on the airwaves, and who knows when that will come. If you ever want a radio station for your community the time to act is now.
What could your organization or community do with an LPFM radio station?
A community radio station can offer something for almost everyone, with diverse programs that reflect the needs and interests of the local residents. Here are some ideas for possible programming. However, each community will undoubtedly develop their own creative programming ideas.
As a sponsor for a broad-based community radio station, your community organization can promote the public good by acting as steward of a station designed for the whole community - almost like a library of the airwaves. Alternately, your group may want to focus more closely on a single constituency, like an immigrant language community, or as an organizing medium for a labor union in a rural farm-working community.
Applying for an LPFM license is affordable, and the cost to build a station is relatively low. The basic equipment for a 100 watt LPFM radio station will be between five and eight thousand dollars, depending upon circumstances and requirements). Upon the granting of a construction permit, you have 18 months to construct your station.
While there is no guarantee that every application will be
successful, the following questions are designed to help you assess your
Individuals are not allowed to apply - only non-profit groups or community organizations. Your organization does not, however, have to be a tax exempt 501(c)(3).
Organizations that have been in existence for two or more years get preference, so it is advantageous (but not necessary) that your organization be at least that old.
Do you already own a TV station, a radio station, a daily newspaper or a cable network?
No one who already owns a major media outlet can have a LPFM
The service is entirely non-commercial, though underwriting, similar to what you hear on National Public Radio, is allowed.
Are you interested in creating local programming?
The FCC gives a preference to organizations who pledge that they will be producing at least 8 hours per day of local programming. The FCC also gives preference to stations that plan to operate at least 12 hours per day. If you have DJ's playing their favorite records, that is considered local as long as they are local people, not a satellite fed national program.
Are you willing to share the frequency with other groups?
In situations where more than one group apply for the same frequency, the FCC gives preference to organizations who are willing to work out timesharing arrangements with other groups that want to use the airwaves.
Is anyone on your board of directors a convicted felon?
The FCC may choose not to allow convicted felons to be holders of broadcast licenses. There are many exceptions to this policy, but it is easier if there are no felons. Sorry, even proven corrupt and crooked Texas law counts here!
Do you have a suitable location for a transmitter?
LPFM transmitters are about the size of a toaster oven, and antennas don't have to be any bigger than the television antennas people put on the roof of their houses, but the higher they are, the better your coverage. The FCC does not allow you to build a station if you are too close to an already existing channel, and the proposed open frequency is too close to that station on the dial. For example, you can't put a 91.3 on the air if there is a 91.5 right across town. With a few simple internet searches that may (or may not) return valid results, you can try figure out if the FCC will allow a station to be built at any location of your choosing. With a small payment to an engineering firm, you can obtain known good results and the engineer will have ways of making your desired station fit that no online search program will ever be able to hold a candle to!
MonsterFM.com / Broadcast Technical Services can help you assess whether a location (or locations) of your choosing will suitable for broadcasting. The Studio and the Transmitter do not need to be in the same place. The transmitter can be tucked away in someone's house or on top of a hill, while the studio is downtown at a community center.
Can your organization raise between five and eight thousand dollars to build a very basic LPFM radio station within the next two years?
There is no application or licensing fee with the FCC, a worthwhile engineer should cost around $2,000 to $2,500 (any more of less and you REALLY need to ask some questions) and the basic equipment will cost between five and eight thousand dollars for a total final outlay of about $10,000 for a very basic LPFM radio station. Of course, you'll spend more if you want to get fancy.
You will have 18 months to construct your station from the day you receive your construction permit and some grants may be available to help you with costs associated with your station.
When should I apply?
The FCC (during November of 2007) announced their intentions of opening new LPFM filing windows during 2008. But, no one knows when this window (or windows) will be opened and, as is the nature of FCC broadcast applications, if you wait until the window is announced to begin your application, you probably won't have time to "pull it all together" before the filing window comes and goes. So, the answer to this question is: You should begin the preparation and filing process long before the filing window is announced so hat you may be fully prepared with a completed application when the filing window is announced.
Will the FCC discriminate against my group? Or will they control the content of the programming?
All requirements are laid out above. The FCC designed this license for groups of all stripes, from Anarchists to Anabaptists. You need to meet the requirements of other stations, which are in fact pretty minimal: No inappropriate obscenity, no advertising, no fraudulent contests, no gambling over the air, etc. It is not legal to cause a public panic with a false report that Martians are attacking or that Texas is in any way civilized. aside from all of this, you are free to have programming of any kind you like.
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