Low Power FM For Dummies
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This handy Cheat Sheet includes important basics for starting up and operating a low power FM (LPFM) radio station. Learn about meeting the criteria for a license to operate, choosing turntables for playing music, crafting announcements, finding online resources, and more.

Great online resources for low power FM stations

This list highlights some important online resources you’ll find yourself referring to time and time again — it’s helpful to have them all in one place!

Applying for a low power FM license

Before applying for an LPFM license from the FCC, make sure you are prepared. Here’s the essential information you need to know to make sure your organization is in the best standing.

Meeting LPFM board criteria

  • Eighty percent or more of the board of directors must be American citizens.
  • Board members and their families cannot have ownership interest in any other broadcast licenses, daily newspapers, or cable TV systems.
  • Anyone that has been dishonest with the FCC in previous proceedings may not serve on the board of a LPFM.
  • Directors may not have been convicted of felonies for crimes involving discrimination or providing fraudulent statements to the U.S. government.
  • Directors may not have a conviction that has resulted in the loss of federal benefits under the U.S. Anti-Drug Abuse Act.
  • Directors cannot have engaged in the operation of an unlicensed broadcast station.

Scoring FCC Telecommunication Service Priority points

  • Established community presence: Two years or more of charitable work in the community
  • Local program origination: A pledge to create local programming for at least eight hours a day
  • Main studio: A pledge to locate the main studio within 10 miles of the transmitter, and staffed and publicly accessible at least 20 hours a week between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. To get this point, applicants must provide a phone number and address for the proposed main studio when filing their application.
  • Local program origination and main studio: A bonus point for having both of the above
  • Diversity of ownership: Applicants host no attributable interested in other broadcast stations
  • Tribal applicants serving tribal lands: To qualify, 51 percent or more of the organization must be controlled by an American Indian tribe or tribes.

Including the right materials in your application

  • Articles of Incorporation of nonprofit organization
  • Educational Statement of Purpose
  • Statement of Reasonable Assurance signed by the tower site’s owner
  • Engineering study (if required)

Choosing your turntables

Most radio stations have two turntables. When selecting a pair for your studio, be sure they have the features that DJs need:

  • Motor: Direct Drive for scratching, quick response, and longevity
  • Speed: 45 and 33 1/3
  • Platter: Manual start and stop
  • Tone arm: Movement independent of platter
  • Pitch control: Ability to match speed

Weaving your webcast

It is not difficult or expensive to set up an online radio station. Take it one step at time and you will be worldwide before you know it! The basic steps:

  • Connect with a stream host
  • Get a direct URL from the stream host
  • Embed a button on your station website that plays your URL
  • Add the studio audio through a computer with audio encoding software
  • Listen online!

Going live!

This is it — this what we all came here for! Here are just a few things to remember before going on air:

Register with music licensing agencies

  • ASCAP: 1-800-99-ASCAP or [email protected]
  • BMI:  1-800-925-8451 or bmi.com/licensing/contact
  • SESAC: getalicense.sesac.co
  • SoundExchange (webcasters only); www.soundexchange.com

Craft underwriting announcements

  • Underwriting announcements may include:
    • Location and contact information of the underwriter.
    • Slogans, brands, and trade names that identify and do not promote.
    • Value neutral descriptions of products and services.
  • Underwriting announcements may not:
    • Promote any for-profit service, facility, or product by way of endorsement, calls to action, or special inducements to buy.
    • Advocate the views of a given person on a matter of public interest.
    • Endorse a specific candidate for office.

On-air broadcaster guidelines and tips

  • Legal ID must be announced at the top of the hour. This is FCC law!
  • No unauthorized broadcasts of the emergency alert tones. It is illegal!
  • No obscene language or descriptions, graphic violence, or sexually explicit material.
  • No promotion of commercial endeavors. No prices — ever!
  • No defamation of people or businesses.
  • No fundraising (except for the station license holder).
  • No qualitative words regarding commercial products or events, such as “great,” “amazing,” or “the best.”
  • No calls to action, such as “check it out,” “go to this show,” or “buy this record.”
  • All political parties and candidates must receive equal airtime.
  • All on-air guests should sign release forms.
  • All on-air calls must have permission of all parties.
  • Say the station name as often as possible.
  • Try to announce the song titles and artist every three to five songs.
  • Never say the words “PSA” or “promo” on air.
  • Never “um” or “ah” on the air.
  • Adhere to Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) guidelines:
  • No more than four selections by the same featured artist or from any box compilation.
  • No more than three songs off one album — no more than two of them consecutively.
  • Watch your audio levels — keep them uniform and out of the red.
  • Always wear headphones when on the mic.
  • Smile — listeners will hear it on the broadcast!

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Sharon M. Scott is the co-founder and general manager of ART FM / WXOX 97.1 FM Louisville, a noncommercial radio station committed to providing access to the airwaves for creative and experimental use. Scott’s radio-advocacy has been covered by sources such as The New York Times, The Hill, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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