by John O. Broomall, Sr.

If you are considering starting a radio station, the process is long (years), expensive (normally $15,000 to $20,000 or more), and complicated.  The rewards are great for groups that have the money and are patient ... if a frequency is available.

Full and Low Power stations are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission in Washington; fines for operating an unlicensed "pirate" station are substantial.  The first step is to determine if a frequency is available.  There are one hundred FM frequencies from 88.1 through 107.9 but in most large urban or suburban areas, all frequencies have already been taken; some "silent spots" on your radio have already been reserved for future stations with Construction Permits.

Officially, an LP100 station is supposed to cover a 3.5 mile radius and an LP10, two miles.  If terrain conditions are favorable (you are on high ground seeking to cover the valley below) and you have a good frequency (no nearby interfering stations), you may have  listeners ten miles away or further with good radios or outside antennas. 

LPFM licenses can be held only by non-profit organizations, not by individuals nor by business.  Consultants such as CCB prepare and file FCC Form 318 applications electronically during designated filing weeks, called "windows."  All current LPFM broadcasters applied during four windows between June 2000 and June 2001.