by James Price III
Finally, after a 7-year wait, the Federal Communications Commission has set a date which will allow applications to be filed for new Christian radio stations.
This is a huge opportunity! The Non-Commercial FM Band, those frequencies 88.1-91.9, will be available again. These frequencies are reserved exclusively for educational broadcasters. We should thank God that evangelical Christian music and teaching is still openly invited to the table as educational programming with no hindrance from the government.
The FCC has set an application filing date later this year from October 12th through the 19th. This short filing period allows new broadcasters the occasion to go on the air after requesting a Construction Permit for previously unused frequencies-those that do not interfere with radio stations already on the air. Many communities have no more openings, as the FM band has gotten very crowded. But there are many more communities which still have great openings, especially one-time small towns where the population has exploded since the mid 1980s.
The filing date is coming fast, considering the great amount of work that must be done beforehand. After all, a completed application is basically a model you propose of your future radio station. An available channel must be confirmed, a tower site located, antenna system designed, FAA approval confirmed, local zoning requirements met, corporations created or modified, programming considered, and other work-a lot to do in a short amount of time.
Is radio something you've been planning to explore for your ministry? Every channel we can capture for Christ can have a far-reaching ministry to your community. Should you use the mass media in your ministry to reach our generation? The programming available today without cost from top evangelical leaders can make the new independent local Christian station hit the nail on the head with evangelical truth. With today's technology, it's easy to sound fantastic, draw a crowd of listeners, reel in the unsaved, and minister to the community in a way never thought possible. What about your own weekly services and the outlet you could provide to other local ministries seeking airtime?
There's no avoiding the subject of cost; a radio station is a hefty investment. In some cases, licenses are as cheap as $20k, with the average hovering around $80k. The question of cost can't really be answered until after the Frequency Search is completed and the channel parameters are known.
To begin the investigation into whether a radio station is an option for you, "Frequency Search" work must be conducted. This search will need to be conducted by an engineering firm that specializes in radio, and practices before the FCC. You might think contacting the FCC is the starting point, but they are quick to recommend you find an engineering firm to assist you. The FCC receives, processes, and licenses work based on the applications filed, but it does not assist in preparing the required engineering and other information needed in an application. There are about a dozen good firms across the country that can do this work for you-and they can easily be found by Internet search, with key words such as "start a Christian radio station."
To be prepared for this new filing period, you really need to get started as soon as possible. The work is not a simple process of loading some software and pushing some buttons; rather, a few weeks are necessary to do the work properly. A reliable, quality firm will charge around $500 for this service. And then you'll need time to consider your options after receiving the results, to make the best decision on how to proceed.
Many industry experts expect this filing window to be the last great opportunity to claim good unused frequencies. Just think of principle of the old "land rush" days in our country's history.
Radio is one of the finest communications tools God has ever given us. We have the opportunity to reach into every home and every car, and our challenge is to bring Christ into each one.
James Price, III is president of Sterling Communications in Ringgold, GA.