Are You Pondering a Radio Ministry?
James Price, III
You’ve been in another city and heard a Christian radio station, and you wished you had the same in your own city. You may have considered the implication of every person in every home and car in your area hearing the gospel, even though you can’t get them to walk through the door of a church on Sunday. Perhaps God has laid a burden on your heart already to bring Christian radio to your locale.
For the past six years a person with this burden has had to wait because the government was not accepting applications for new FM non-commercial radio stations. But now a filing window is coming soon. At the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Dallas this previous February, FCC staff publicly predicted an early `07 filing window. While no official date has been announced yet, everyone with the opportunity of an avail able channel and the desire should make ready.
The filing window for these new FM stations is for the reserved educational FM band (lower fifth of the FM band), frequencies 88.1 to 91.9. While new stations could be up to 100,000 watts, the practical limit in most parts of the country will be closer to 6,000 watts because of congestion. However, a 6,000-watt station reaches out about 80 miles in any direction, and further in many cases.
Only non-profit corporations or educational entities can apply for these stations. The FCC awards Construction Permits on the basis of serving the public interest and providing educational content, and religious programming meets all the requirements of educational programming. The government also established laws protecting religious broadcasters that allow you to only hire staff and use programming that match your religious beliefs. Thus, you are not forced to ever operate the station or provide programming contrary to what you believe pleases God.
Most of the big cities have received as many stations as allowed, and any more would cause unacceptable interference. If you are in an area you suspect to be one of those congested locations, contact some one that can provide you with an educated, honest appraisal.
To begin the investigation into whether a radio station is an option for you, a Non commercial FM Frequency Search must be conducted by an engineering company that specializes in radio and practices before the FCC. The FCC does not assist in preparing applications. There are about a dozen good firms across the country that can do this work. Using a search engine and “start a radio station” will provide a good starting point.
This search requires careful measurements, tower and property availability studies, antenna design, and a host of other items. It will require a few weeks to complete, so I recommend you have it conducted as soon as possible, before the FCC makes the filing window announcement. A reliable, quality firm will charge around $500 for this service, including a technical and detailed analysis, summary, and all maps required to completely explain the findings.
With a good Frequency search completed, you will be able to see on paper what your radio station would be like in the real world. You’ll see the frequency your engineer suggests you file for; you’ll be able to see the coverage area plotted out on detailed color maps that include streets, counties, city limits, and other information. The studies should include population numbers within the coverage, and information about towers available and the working area where your tower and antenna must be located.
After the search you’ll need to confirm a working transmitter/antenna site, whether property or an existing tower. As you locate potential sites your engineer will be checking your findings, and re mapping the available channel to show you how it will cover, based on your site you’ve located.
Once you’ve established a working site, the application can be prepared and be ready for submittal when the FCC window opens. Be sure your engineering company can assist you with the corporate aspects that must be met when filing an application- i.e., that your church or ministry group is organized properly to meet all legal aspects required by the FCC.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of using an engineering company that has a long history of working with the FCC, that offers references, and an excellent success rate. A new method of submitting the application to the FCC by electronic filing really adds to the streamlining and ease of filing, not available in the past. Now, during a 5 or 10 day filing window period, an applicant will file an application for a channel to serve a location, and no one other than the applicant will have this information available to them. Once the filing window is closed, and no other applications being received, the Commission prepares a list of singleton applications. If a competitor does file, your engineering firm can explain how the FCC resolves the issue, and guide you through the complexities involved.
A 6,000-watt station could be as inexpensive as $20,000—or it could run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, where a large transmitter, new tower and multi-bay directional antenna are required. The question of cost can’t really be estimated until after the Frequency search is completed and the channel parameters are known. Many industry experts expect this filing window will be the last great opportunity to claim good unused frequencies. Just think of the ‘the old “land rush” days— same principle. God has provided this marvelous opportunity to reach every home and car, and our challenge is to bring Christ into each one.
“Are You Pondering a Radio Ministry?” By James Price, III.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”