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A Funder's Guide to Supporting the Opportunity
Passage of the Local Community Radio Act has created an opportunity for the largest single expansion of community radio in history, allowing for the inclusion of voices and perspectives missing from the airwaves for too long.
Setting up and running a low-power station is not difficult and it is relatively inexpensive. That said, creating and sustaining a successful community station requires some planning and of course, strong community involvement. The capital costs for build out range from $10,000 for bare bones to $100,000 for high-end facilities. Annual operating costs range from slightly less than $5,000, up to $100,000 with the average established station spending just under $20,000. Clearly, funding is key to success and several factors influence a group’s ability to create and sustain a community station.
There is a tight timeline for community groups to seize this opportunity. The application window, October 15, 2013, may only be five days long. If groups aren't prepared, they may lose their chance to apply. The process will be competitive; it is important that the anticpated 1,000+ licenses be awarded to groups that have the ability to organize and engage their communities for deep and lasting impact.
FACTORS THAT MAKE A STRONG CANDIDATE FOR A LOW POWER RADIO STATION
A community radio station needs strong community involvement first and foremost. This engagement is the catalyst for start-up and is directly related to the other key indicators of success; capacity and vision. Successful community radio stations truly reflect the community in which they reside and are as diverse in programming as that community. Strong ties to the community, a shared vision for the station, built in opportunities for community members to produce and share content as well as contribute to the direction and format of the station make people more likely to contribute time and financial and in-kind resources to the station.
Groups need to be resourced with people and skills. They must be able to engage and manage volunteers, create a management structure for the station, solicit, hear and respond in a positive manner to community feedback, and be able to raise the upfront costs for build-out.
Vision for how station could serve community
A strong vision is the backbone of any successful venture and community radio is no exception. Groups should seek to fill a need in the community. This may fully advance the mission of their existing non-profit, or it may be an offshoot of an existing program. In all cases, that vision includes opportunities for growth in response to community need and engagement.
SUPPORTING STRONG CANDIDATES
Below is a rough timeline that includes activities that applicants must undertake to start a station. At every juncture, groups will need both financial and organizational support. Funders can offer both in the form of space use, community connections, start up, program, and/or ongoing support.
- Now – June 2013 - Outreach to potential groups and preparation to apply / Suggestions and introductions for potential antenna sites
- Groups shoulld be assessing capacity for community engagement, fundraising, and articulating their vision. They should also have identified a few possible locations for their antenna.
- Funders can offer: space for community meetings, introductions to groups with similar missions, community members with needed skills and agency, as well as potential funders.
- July 2013 – October 2013 - Conduct Engineering Study to determine channel availability
- Funders can underwrite the cost of the study - anywhere from $500 - $2,000 and offer other potential locations for antenna based on study outcomes.
- October 2013 - Submit Application to FCC
- Spring 2014 – 2016 - Licenses awarded
- Funders can: Make a challenge grant to help stations engage the community in financial support! Offer space for commmunity meetings, make introductions to groups and community members who could serve as board members and volunteers, underwriters, etc.
- 2015 - 2019 - Station Building!
- Funders can: connect stations with volunteers, donate office equipment, feature stations in communications with constituents.
SUPPORTING A NATIONAL PEOPLE POWERED RADIO CAMPAIGN
Prometheus is leading a coalition of groups to get the word out and help groups apply for, build and sustain their stations. Prometheus serves as the primary point of contact and has heard from thousands of interested groups to date. If you would like to learn more about how you can support this national campaign, contact Julia Wierski, Director of Development and Communications at jwiersk (at) prometheusradio.org or 215-727-9620 ext. 545.