How to Start a Local FM Radio Station
By Rhonda Campbell
Updated September 22, 2017
The process of starting your own local FM radio station involves obtaining a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the government body that has oversight for radio stations. After you complete necessary filings and get your license from the FCC you will need to build your studio. Remember that a benefit of starting your own FM station in today's market is the Internet. With streaming, you can bring your station online and gain a global audience of listeners.
Review rules and regulations. Visit the FCC Radio and Broadcast Rules page (see resources). Review channel availability, territorial exclusivity, indicating instruments, field strength contours and antenna systems. Review the rules and regulations annually as the FCC updates them once a year.
Get identification numbers. Complete Form 160 (see resources) to request a FCC Registration Number (FRN). Keep in mind that you can also call 800-418-3676 to request a FRN application. Call 202-418-2730 to apply for a Facility ID Number.
Pay necessary fees. Refer to the Media Bureau Fee Filing Guide. Download the report on application fees and payment schedule (see resources). Keep in mind that you can also call the Financial Operations Help Desk at 877-480-3201 to ask about your specific payment dates and fee amounts. Call between 8:00 A.M. and 6:00 P.M., Monday through Friday. You can also email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
File an application. Complete the "Application For FM Broadcast Station License" Form 302 (see resources). Provide your name, address, application purpose, technical specifications for your radio station and applicable certifications. Include required fees then sign and return the form to the Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street, SW Washington, DC 20554.
Build your studio. Contact businesses such as Erickson and W2DTC to purchase station equipment such as broadcast transmitters, play out software, receivers, studio microphones and headsets, monitors and audio consoles. Purchase equipment that meets FCC regulations and guidelines. Make sure that you get insurance on your equipment and studio location.
Stream your station across the Internet. Visit a streaming site such as Stream Finder. Download a WINAMP, DSP Plug In and Shout Cast or other relevant server. Configure the server. Set up a router and Internet Service Provider (IP) address. Test your station to make sure the programs stream clearly across the Internet.
Market and promote your station. Add your radio station to your local yellow pages and to online directories like Radio Locator, Live 365, Stream Finder and Shout Cast. Build a website for your station. Write about your station on Blogs, social forums and discussion groups like MySpace, Yahoo Groups and Tweeter. Include the call letters and website URL for your station on all correspondence, business cards and emails.
Rhonda Campbell is an entrepreneur, radio host and author. She has more than 17 years of business, human resources and project management experience and decades of book, newspaper, magazine, radio and business writing experience. Her works have appeared in leading periodicals like "Madame Noire," "Halogen TV," "The Network Journal," "Essence," "Your Church Magazine," "The Trenton Times," "Pittsburgh Quarterly" and "New Citizens Press."