Thinking of Applying for a Radio Station?



The FCC is getting ready to open a FULL POWER NON-COMMERCIAL/EDUCATIONAL licensing window for new public radio stations. Non-Commercial Educational (NCE) full power radio licensing has been frozen since 2000, and this will be the first opportunity to apply for more than five years. Groups all over the country have been waiting a long time, so there will be a tremendous number of applications that will be filed.


Here are some basic facts to help you get started!

October 12 – 19.  2007, the FCC will open a window to apply for new,  full power non-commercial educational (NCE) radio frequencies.

The window itself will likely be open only seven days. You must file your application during this 7-day window, so everything needs to be ready to go.

If you do not apply now, there is no telling when there will be another chance.

The eligible channels that will be allocated in this window are designated as non-commercial educational (NCE) stations. Most are located between 88.1 MHz and 91.9 MHz on the FM dial.  But there are also a few commercial channels specifically reserved for NCE use, and you can apply for these as well.

Full power stations can be any power, between 100 watts up to the 100,000 watts, depending on your location! The actual power level will depend on the geographic coordinates where you propose to put your transmitter and antenna.

You cannot apply as an individual — the applicant must be an organization with an educational mission. It can be an incorporated group, an Indian tribe, or some other form of nonprofit entity. You do not need 501(c)3 (tax exempt) status to qualify.

Applications will be processed through an on-line electronic filing system, and you will need an

FCC Registration Number (FRN). It’s easy to get one, but you need a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) from the IRS for your non-profit entity. Best to get this all in shape now.

The NCE window will probably open early in 2007 — 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.

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

If you want to apply for a full power non-commercial radio station, this is the one chance for the foreseeable future.

Most Important — You must have an available frequency!

You can only apply for a frequency (spot on the radio dial) that does not conflict with any existing stations in your geographic region.  Finding a frequency will follow current FCC interference rules.

You must have a specific geographic place to put your transmitter and antenna — your power and frequency allocation will be based on these geographic coordinates.  The location should be as high an elevation as possible, and it needs access to electrical power and a place to put a shed for the transmitter if a building is not already there.

Once you have a transmitter site, you will need an engineer to help you do a ‘frequency search’ using the most up-to-date database from the FCC.  This will determine your spot on the radio dial. This will cost some money. A preliminary check for frequency availability generally costs around $250, and the full engineering exhibit you would be required to submit to the FCC can cost $3000 — $5000 to prepare. Substantial discounts from Nexus Broadcast, providing application preparation as low as $1,600 are available to members referred by groups such as

You might need an FCC attorney. You may think you are out in the sticks, but you may be in for a surprise when you file your application– there is no limit or geographic restrictions on how many stations any single entity can own or where, so if you are in an area with any population, there will almost certainly be competition for the frequency. You may find yourself up against a school, the local community college, the Opera Society, a network of church stations, and another public radio station that is already on the air, and you will need good legal advice from someone knowledgeable about the workings of the FCC. [Note – This will cost some money, but there are a number of attorneys with long experience working as advocates for community radio stations who will be ready to help.

You will need to demonstrate that you have access to enough funds to construct the station and operate it without revenue for 3 months. Depending on the size of the transmitter and other factors, you may need between $25,000 – $250,000 to actually build your station and get it going. But there is room for many different financing schemes, and 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 or organize appropriate financing.

Preparing an application will be demanding, requiring an investment in time, effort, and money.

But there is nothing mysterious about it, and the prize is — a radio voice for your community!

Go for it!!!