We would love to see you start your own Christian radio station in your own city or town. It can be a large undertaking but like any large undertaking it is easier to handle if you break it down into smaller pieces.
As with the other articles on this website, this is a first attempt at providing this information in a written form. We are hoping to supplement this with additional information in the coming months.
In order to help you understand how this should be done, we will start with a brief description of the different kinds of radio stations. All broadcast stations in the United States are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission and operate under very specific rules and regulations. Obtaining a permit to get started is perhaps the hardest part of the whole process.
All AM stations and most FM stations are licensed as commercial stations, operated by their owners to make money. They make money by selling advertising, paying their operating costs and hopefully having a profit at the end of the day. Commercial stations are the hardest to obtain, they are available only by auction from the government and only when a frequency is available. There are almost no frequencies left for commercial stations except in extremely rural areas where almost no one lives.
Non-Commercial FM Stations
Many Calvary Chapels operate non-commercial FM stations. These are full power stations that cover large areas but operate under strict rules that do not allow advertising or making a profit. The permits are easier to obtain and there are no government fees when you do so. Unlike commercial stations, which are auctioned off to the highest bitter, non-commercial stations are awarded through a competitive application process.
Low Power FM (LPFM)
LPFM is another category of stations popular with Calvary Chapels. These are smaller stations that generally only cover one or two cities or towns, the licensing is easier and the requirements are much simpler. As with their non-commercial FM counterparts they are licensed through a competitive application process.
Translators are small stations that rebroadcast a larger station from somewhere else. Calvary Satellite Network (CSN, now known as Christian Satellite Network) has built a large network of hundreds of translators across the country. Other Christian broadcasters use translators to re-broadcast their programming. They cover a small area, but the biggest disadvantage is that they cannot contain local programming. If you have a translator in your area from another station far away you cannot put your own local programming on that translator. Nevertheless, there are uses for translators under certain circumstances and this option should be explored.
Getting a Permit
The process starts by applying to the FCC for a construction permit to build one of these types of stations. Applications can only be submitted during small periods of time known as filing windows, generally just a week long and usually announced by the FCC in advance. The bad news is that there has not been a filing window for these types of stations in several years. The good news is that we might see a filing window in the next year or two, if you believe the current rumors. So if you’re interested, now is the time to do some research, commit it to prayer, examine the cost and benefits and make a decision so when the opportunity presents itself you know whether you want to jump in the game.
You can also consider buying an existing station, which can be done at any time if you find one available. There are a number of radio station broker companies that help to market stations, similar to real estate agents that sell houses.
We will supplement this article with more information in the future, but in the meantime please feel free to use our contact form to let us know of your interest and we will try to help you get pointed in the right direction.