Anyone own/work in a small commercial radio station?

Having dreams of winning the PowerBall jackpot, and knowing a local radio station (on AM & FM) shut down this past year, I’m curious on what it would take to establish a local radio station (or restart this one).

I’m not too worried about the business aspect (i.e. power bills, advertising), 'cause I’d be flush with cash. But, I am positive there’s FCC licensing involved. But is it like a liquor license that can be bought/sold? Is there training involved (like, I personally have to have a Commercial Broadcasting rating, similar to an Amateur Radio license)?

Tripler
Think of me as a wanna-be Chris Stevens, sans felony conviction.

You don’t exactly “buy” the license - you and the current licensee work out your deal, then file an application for transfer with the FCC. There are a few requirements (the FCC will look very closely at your felony convictions) but the broadcast lawyer/agent you’ve hired will guide you through that.

You don’t personally need a broadcasting license to own a station, but you will have to have licensed operator on duty while the station is on the air, and both you and they will be responsible for any technical violations.

If you want to reopen a closed station, you’ll need to start from scratch with engineering studies, etc.

Note that this page on the FCC’s web site indicates that they are not currently accepting new applications for licenses for radio stations on either the AM or FM bands. So, you’d have to get an existing license transferred to you, as @Kent_Clark notes.

Regarding the OP’s local station which recently shut down: you would need to find out the status of their license, whether it’s still active, and who currently has ownership (and if they would be interested in selling it).

It’d probably be much easier to buy into an existing station than to try to resuscitate a defunct one. And for a considerably cheaper and less complicated option, there’s Internet radio.

If you need inexpensive on-air talent, I’ve long thought I could run a wildly popular gardening call-in show (“Now that’s a stupid question. What the hell do you need weedkiller for on a 5 by 10 foot plot, dimwit?”)

I could also see about reinstating my old FCC First Class license and being your chief engineer. :smiley:

Thanks for that link! It’s unfortunate they’re not accepting and new license applications, since one of my #lotterydreams ideas was to open up a station in a “dead zone” with virtually non-existent service, near some property I have near Pie Town, NM.. It’s so remote, you can’t even get PBS/NPR signals out there, and most of the locals have unreliable internet service.

An internet radio station here in this town would be okay, since we have reliable service. However, I’m a sucker for over-the-air stations (despite listening to KTAO on an internet feed in the office).

Tripler
Yes, there is a Town of Pie.

I recall years ago reading about FCC licenses for low-powered FM stations (range significantly less than the 60 miles of most current stations). I won’t say “amateur” but the implication was they were non-commercial, almost hobby. Not sure if that’s still a category.

Plus, there are plenty of software programs I recall reading about starting when MP3’s were first a thing, where you could program a playlist and the station (or internet streaming) would play that unattended. There is of course a licensing process for broadcasting music too (or streaming) based, I think, on audience numbers. If you just want it around your property, there are low power FM transmitters - I wonder what drive-ins used to push sound out? There were gizmos to put your headphone output to the FM in your car, before cars had audio-in plugs.

I guess the other question is where you would get equipment if you started a radio station. I don’t imagine commercial FM band broadcast equipment is an off-the-shelf item; and range is line of sight, so you would want a tall tower or a good hill. When I’ve driving away from the big city, I get to the point where the FM signal fades off when I’m over a hill and comes back as I climb the next one.

One review says this gets about a mile and a half range…

I, too was going to suggest low power. There are a few in my region, often affiliated with a school (or, in one case, a senior-living center) or a church.

Those were the glut of "Jack-FM"s IIRC

It is still a category, and low-power FM licenses have their own section in the FCC link that I provided above. Unfortunately, just like “regular” FM and AM licenses, the FCC notes on that page that they aren’t currently accepting applications for new low-power licenses, either (and it appears that the last time that they held a “filing window” for such licenses was 2013).

I was looking at online sale listings for radio stations, and unsurprisingly there’s a huge difference between the asking prices for Internet and on-air stations. Some Internet stations are selling for $1500 or less, while the on-air counterparts tend to go for hundreds of thousands or over a million dollars.*

*Potential buyers obviously need to investigate these situations carefully. One intriguing deal offered an FM station in Montenegro for $600K. The signal allegedly covers practically the entire country, which may not be as impressive a claim as it sounds.

Once upon a time, in the 1960s, '70s, 80’s, there were pirate (unlicensed) stations broadcasting from tops of tower blocks, offshore vessels, and similar locations. Presumably there was demand for this, and also some were even able to get licensed.

But, today, even assuming you could get a low- or micro-power FM broadcast license, is there local demand for it? I wonder why in your dead zone the FCC doesn’t allow for a new station.

Catron County, New Mexico. It’s a radio-astronomy dark zone. The don’t want any radio transmission.

The VLA is actually in Socorro County, but within a 40-min drive of Pie Town. I suspect that it’s a demand issue, since the nearest towns of any marketable size is outside of the county. Catron’s only got ~3,500 people and a huge amount of land.

I also know there’s a Military Operations Area-designated chunk of airspace right over the VLA, so I reckon that radio interference is factored in.

It just probably isn’t a profitable market for the infrastructure costs for such a small population, but what would I care? I’d be a gazillionaire.

Tripler
Future Disk Jockey and Gazillionaire.

Here’s an historical classic about getting into radio broadcasting, legally and otherwise.

Great read.

https://www.amazon.com/Sex-Broadcasting-Handbook-Starting-Community/dp/0486814491

If you can win the PowerBall quickly, there’s a group of four AM stations in and around St. Louis that will be auctioned off individually in May. Minimum bid for each station is $50,000.

I just bought a ticket last night at the grocery store. :crossed_fingers:

I’d be the best Gazillionaire DJ ever. I’d totally take requests from you guys.

Tripler
Future owner/operator of KSDMB, “the Dope.”

1975 edition, for your convenience:

Garrison Keillor has a piece on one of his CD’s, “How I got Into Radio” which is a good listen.