July 17, 2013

Thanks to the passage of the Local Community Radio Act, and the efforts of the Prometheus Radio Project, this October nonprofits and community groups will have a one-time chance to apply for and start community radio stations nationwide.

Two years ago, President Obama signed the Local Community Radio Act into law.  The legislation effectively opened the airwaves to hundreds of new low power FM radio stations.  But in order to be among those hundreds of new radio station hosts, you need a license.  Applications can only be submitted October 15-29, but prospective applicants can begin preparing for the process by looking at the application on the FCC’s website.

Low-power FM (LPFM) stations operate at 100 watts and reach listeners in an area from 3-10 miles in diameter.  These licenses are free and available only to non-for-profit, local organizations.  Because they are relatively easy to start and operate, low power radio puts media in the hands of a wide range of community groups–from arts and cultural organizations to neighborhood groups to civic groups and social change agents.  Well-suited groups are those with strong local roots, some staff or volunteer capacity to take on new projects, and a mission to serve their community.

The deadline for this one-time opportunity is October. To apply, groups will need to have an engineering survey done of the station site, which costs anywhere from $500-$2,000. After applications are submitted, the next thing to do is to wait for a decision from the FCC.  Groups that are approved for a license have 18 months to finish raising funds, start construction, and get on air.  The total cost of a low-budget station is around $10,000-$15,000.

The Prometheus Radio Project is providing free support to community groups on navigating the FCC application process and the nuts and bolts of starting stations.  To get support, groups need to fill out an application on their website.