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Kate Coyer <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Wed, 15 Mar 2006 07:36:57 -0000
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Though this is of particular to people in the US, I wanted to send it along.
In short, the FCC is opening up a window for non-profit groups to apply
for full power, non-commercial radio stations in the US.  Such an
opportunity has not come up in almost 20 years and it needs to be taken
advantage of!

Please fwd this on to anyone you think might be interested or who knows
someone who might be interested, etc.  One thing we know from this kind of
activist work in the US is that we are always a few steps behind the right
who are in a much better position to apply for a lot of these radio
stations, and plan to do so, primarily through some of the very
conservative right wing church groups like Calvary Chapel.  It has not
been easy to spread the word about this opportunity to local community
groups who might not already be linked up with national and international
media activist groups, and thus won't find out about this rare, rare
opportunity until it is tooo late.

The following email is from the Prometheus Radio Project and outlines some
of the reality of what is involved, especially resources like money and
time.  But think about how important Pacifica Radio has been.  Democracy
Now!.  College radio.  Farmworkers groups, civil rights organisations and
environmental groups own non-commercial radio stations.  Open access
community stations offer training and resources to the neighborhood,
especially youth.  And some stations just provide a valuable space for
local people to play their record albums or promote local musicians and
artists.  No to mention the value of community-based news.  But these
stations are the minority.

I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but as many of us are actively
involved in campaigns to create better media systems, or promoting the
value of alternative media, we now have a really rare chance to help get
the word out to provide greater public access to our scarce airwaves.
ASnd though this licensing opportunity doesn't help any of us living in
the largest cities, or even medium sized cities, isn't it the smaller
towns that need community media most?

So that's why I'm rambling on for so long here to people who are already
involved in and teaching about these issues, but just to remind us of why
100 year old analog radio technology still matters.  And can matter to
even more people in the future.

So with that said, I really do urge everyone to send this email on and
help spread the word, especially to groups that might not have thought
about running a radio station before because they had no idea it was an


Kate Coyer


Greetings from the Prometheus Radio Project! This note is to inform you
that the FCC is preparing to open a FULL POWER

Non-Commercial Educational (NCE) full power radio licensing had been
hopelessly complicated for the past 15 years, and frozen for more than
five.  The FCC has finally made improvements to the application system,
and the first real opportunity to apply since the late 80's will be
coming up soon.

The lay of the land:
 -- Very soon, the FCC will open a window for new, full power
non-commercial educational (NCE) radio frequencies.

 -- We don.t know yet exactly when, but there will be some warning --
The FCC will give notice announcing when the window will be open,
typically 30 to 60 days in advance.

 -- The window itself will last five days.

 -- You can only file your application during this 5-day window, so
everything needs to be ready to go.

 -- If you do not apply now, it will probably be many, many years before
there will be another chance.  To make matters worse, any frequency
worth having will probably be taken in this window of opportunity.

 -- The NCE window will probably open sometime in the next 6 months, so
start preparing now.  You can not apply before this window of
opportunity, and you can not apply after -- you can only apply while the
window is open.  If you want to apply for a full power non-commercial
radio station, this is the one chance for the foreseeable future.  Even
the President of the United States, the Supreme Court, and a Fleet of
Martian Space Invaders all working together can not change that.  So
take heed --it's now or never!

Applying for full power stations is similar to applying for low power
stations, but there are more rules to follow and it is more complex.

 -- The only eligible channels distributed in this window are between
88.1 MHz and 91.9 MHz on the FM dial.

 -- Full power stations must be 100 watts or more, up to the 100,000
watt range (depending on your geographic location)!

 -- Unlike with low power FM, you must submit an engineering exhibit
proving that your proposed station will cause no interference to
existing radio stations.  In low power, the FCC does this for you with
an online channel finder tool that tells you whether a given location
has interference free channels available.

You will need a good frequency!

You can only apply for an open frequency in your geographic region that
does not conflict with any existing stations -- based on the FCC
interference rules.  To locate such a frequency, you will need an
engineer to help you do a "frequency search" using the most up-to-date
database from the FCC.

*** This will cost some money. ***  A preliminary check for frequency
availability generally costs about $100, a more detailed search is
around $250, and the full engineering exhibit you would be required to
submit to the FCC can cost $2000 -- $3000 to prepare.  {Note --
Prometheus is considering buying some of these services in bulk to lower
costs, but applicants should be clear that this process will definitely
cost you some money.  There will be many engineers ready to help out.}

Unfortunately, there is no chance in hell that you are eligible for a
full power NCE radio license if you are within 20 miles of the 50
largest cities in the United States, and very little chance if you are
within 30 miles of the largest 100 cities.

So if you call us about this from New York City, LA, or Chicago we will
tell you that you are wasting our time and yours, and hang up.  We know
a million people in those places that want a full power radio station.
A full power NCE application, for big city slickers, is barking up the
wrong tree.  You should have applied thirty years ago.  Sadly, most full
power frequencies in major cities are long gone and today open
frequencies only remain in smaller towns and rural areas.  The biggest
city we have found so far with a frequency possibility is a city of
500,000, though many cities that size do not have channels available.

Now, some more background on getting ready to apply:

 -- There is no application fee at the FCC, since the service is

 -- You can not apply as an individual -- the applicant must be an
organization with an educational mission.

 -- You should be incorporated, but you do not need 501(c)3 (tax-exempt)
status to qualify.

 -- You do not have to be a school to have an educational mission, and
there is no requirement for how long your organization has existed.
The FCC does not evaluate the educational mission of applicants - your
educational mission could be "to educate the public about the virtues of
the music of Ozzy Osbourne," and the FCC will essentially interpret that
educational mission as an expression of your freedom of speech.  {We
actually wish there were slightly higher standards about this, because
your community organization with all of its local work could easily lose
out to the "Society for the Appreciation of Tomb Raider(tm) Gaming and
Cinema."  Unfortunately, there are not higher standards and even the
President of the United States, the Supreme Court, and a Fleet of
Martian Space Invaders all working together can not change that.  There
are no sociologists at the FCC, they do not care about the merits of
your idea for a radio station or who it is that is not getting served in
your town.}

 -- You definitely will need to hire an engineer to pull this off. {see

 -- You will almost certainly need an attorney who practices
communications law. If you are in an area with any population there will
almost certainly be competition for the frequency you are applying for,
and you will need good legal advice, knowledgeable about the workings of
the FCC, to win in that circumstance.  You may think you are out in the
sticks, but you are likely in for a surprise when you put in the
application and find yourself up against a church, a school district, a
highway authority or a Charlie's Angels fan club.

 -- You also need to demonstrate that you have access to the cash to
construct and operate the station without income for the first 6
months.  Depending on the size of the transmitter and other factors,
you may need between $25,000 -- $200,000 to build and operate.

This could be in the form of a building on which a loan could be taken
out on as collateral, or already have the budget of a large organization
(such as a college) that could clearly afford to operate a radio
station, or like many groups, do a lot of fundraising.

 -- This can be complicated, but don't be intimidated.  There are a lot
of ways to make the finances work.  If the past is any indication, it
could take the FCC several years to process your application, giving you
quite a lot of time to build.  So in reality you will probably have
plenty of time to raise the cash.

 -- Putting in an application will be demanding, and if you really want
a station, be prepared to make an investment in time, effort, and money.
But the prize is worth it.

Prometheus can offer some advice on the application process, but we are
not allocations engineers or lawyers. Give us a call to talk with us
about how we can help.  We will try to get you started and point you
towards the assistance you need.  But we are a small organization with
limited staff, so if your situation is really complicated (not something
we know off the top of our head) and we have to do significant research
ourselves, we will have to bill you by the hour.

There are some other groups, too, that will be helping groups prepare

 -- National Federation of Community Broadcasters (http://www.nfcb.org)
may be able to help if you join and become a member.

 -- Public Radio Capital (http://www.pubcap.org/) is a consultancy that
helps groups find financing for new frequencies. They charge for their
services, but may be able to help you figure out how to find money for
the process.

 -- We can also recommend engineers and lawyers directly, but call us
first.  Their time is expensive and we can save you some of those
"billable hours (think $200, $300, or $400 dollars an hour) by helping
you figure out what professional assistance you really need.

Don't be discouraged -- be excited!!  While this process can be
intimidating, there is nothing mysterious about it and you have as good
a chance of getting a license as anyone else!!  We'll do everything we
can to provide you with help and support, and you will have lots of

So sharpen your pencils, the time is at hand, radio station builders!
To get started, you can join our mailing list for the most useful
information on applying for full power stations.  Just tell us where
you are, your email and mailing address, the name and website of your
organization, and your goals for the radio station.

And we'll help you go for it!!

Pete Tridish, [log in to unmask]
Andy Gunn, [log in to unmask]

Prometheus Radio Project


hannah sassaman

building radio stations = awesome