Starting a radio station

How much would this cost?

What is required?

I contacted Mulcher Broadcasting, which was one of the top hits on google, but pretty sure they were a scam, they wanted $350 so i could receive a packet of instructions.

I don’t have a cite to back this up, but I’m pretty sure that licensing for radio transmitters is limited by the FCC, and that the “slots” are probably all taken up.

You’ll probably have to buy a license from an existing station, and then you can maybe also make some deals on buying up their equipment, building, and making job offers to their employees.

On-air talent often have a contract term; you may have no choice but to hire them on or buy out their contract.

I’m basing this on being in the USA; other places would be different.

Naturally, a powerful station in a dense area has many listeners, and therefore the license would have more value than a weak rural station.

I would assume that whether it’s AM or FM would greatly affect the value as well.

As an aside, here’s an interesting article about the taxi business in Boston. Summary: If you want to “start” a taxi company in Boston, you need to pay up to $250,000 to buy someone else’s taxi license, in addition to the cost of the car.


Establishing a radio station is no small undertaking. It can cost anywhere from about 250K to around a million just for the equipment. Then you’ve got to rent space that is appropriately zoned and that has room for the satellite dishes you’ll need if you want to carry satellite programming.

Speaking of satellite programming, you’ll need licenses from at least ASCAP and BMI to play music; you can probably ignore SESAC. Then you’ll have to buy music, either on your own or through a supplier, such as Jones Radio Networks or a similar company. Jones offers other programming, as well.

Of course, you’ll need to hire staff. You’ll need a broadcast engineer to keep the equipment in shape, and you’ll need at least one or two salespeople to sell advertising. You can have live DJs if you want, but you’ll probably want an automation system, which will run you another few hundred bucks plus the cost of a dedicated computer.

I wish I could give you harder numbers, but I can’t. The cost of equipment is hugely variable, and you would need to talk to a broadcast engineer to know what you need and to know what you’re buying. ASCAP and BMI aren’t exactly forthcoming about their licensing fees; when I did this exact project in college, they wouldn’t even talk to me with the rather specific hypotheticals I gave them. Ditto for programming suppliers.

Your best bet is probably to find an existing station that is for sale and run it as a turnkey operation. It’s much cheaper and less nerve-wracking.

There’s a whole big bunch of “depends” involved in the answer.

The FCC license fee ranges from $500 per year for a low power AM station in a small town to $9,250 for a high-power FM station in a major market. That’s assuming you can find an available frequency.

More likely, you’ll want to buy someone else’s station license and properties. The last transactions I could find easily showed $1,050,000 for a (not particularly desirable) AM station in Ann Arbor, MI and $535,000 for two FM and one AM stations Houghton, MI. Houghton is in the upperest part of Michigan’s Upper Pennisula, and Houghton County has a population of about 36,000.

The Federal Communications Commission has a page titled How to Apply for a Broadcast Station. Essentially, it is hopeless.

I found the business plan I had to do for my class, and it looks like it would cost about $2 million just to sign on, exclusive of ongoing operating costs.

It’s not worth it.

You could always form a non-profit organization and find an area with a non-commercial frequency available. Get a low-power transmitter, mount your antenna on top of a building, spend a few thousand on rudimentary equipment, put it all in a spare room and you could get on the air for somewhere in the neighborhood of $10-$20K. Of course, you still have to do something about programming, and you’re going to have a surprisingly large monthly electric bill, but at least you’d be on the air.

Are commercial radio stations hard-wired to a specific frequency or could any station pretty much easily dial into any frequency?

you are assigned a frequency in the USA, probably everywhere as well.

I understand that the frequency is assigned. I was just wondering if it is possible that the engineer “could” easily spin a few dials and broadcast on a completely different frequency … or if the physical transmitter is limited in range, with only some fine tuning capability.

Just idle curiosity. Hope nobody minds the piggyback.

No, the transmitter frequency is set at the factory, and can’t be changed without opening the thing up and changing a gizmo.

The old tube-type transmitters had a tendency to wander off their assigned frequency, and could be fine-tuned. By the time solid-state transmitters came along in the 60s and 70s, they were pretty much hands-off.

It was always fun to change the power and antenna array on our old transmitter. Switch off, switch off. Turn a dial. Switch on, switch on, fine-tune. And do it all before anyone noticed you were off the air.

Even if the transmitter were frequency agile, broadcast antennas are not

With the availablilty inexpensive low power transmitters and audio production equipment, there is a growing number of unlicensed (some call them pirate radio) broadcasters. It’s rampant in Europe. In NA, ulicensed radio stations can be found on FM and shortwave frequencies most weekends.

In the US, LPFM looks like an option for legal, small scale communuty radio.