How to Start an FM Radio Station

Starting an FM radio station requires a lot of investment capital, paperwork and patience.
Starting an FM radio station requires a lot of investment capital, paperwork and patience. (Image: radio tower image by Colin Buckland from

Many people dream of owning a radio station, but making that a reality requires a lot of effort, money, and expertise. Even if you're willing and able to go the distance, there is still no guarantee of application approval for a new FM broadcast frequency by the FCC. In 2009, the Federal Communications Commission received nearly 30,000 inquiries from persons seeking to start radio broadcast stations – so you've got a lot of competition.

Things You'll Need

  • Business plan
  • Investment capital
  • Legal counsel
  • Broadcast engineer
  • FCC forms
  • FM transmitter
  • Real estate
  • Audio equipment
  • Office staff
  • On-Air talent

Get Your FM Station On the Air

Hire an attorney and a competent broadcast engineer to be a part of your team. If you want to start up a full power FM radio station, it's important to get expert guidance at the earliest stages, especially in filling out your initial FCC paperwork.

Fill out Federal Communications Commission Form 175. This form allows qualified bidders to participate in FCC auctions of available broadcast frequencies.

Fill out FCC forms 601 and 603; your initial application and license request as required by law.

Fill out Form 854 (Antenna Structure Registration).

Buy some land in the city of broadcast authorization. This is where you will place your FM transmitter. Comply with local zoning laws and obtain all applicable construction permits.

Purchase or lease an office and broadcast studio space. This can be anywhere; an office building, converted house or store front. It does not need to be in the same location as your transmitter, or even in the same city.

Hire a professional sound design firm to build your broadcast and production studios. Install new, state-of-the-art equipment and microphones to ensure crystal-clear audio quality.

Hire your staff: upper management, a program director, music director, sales manager and several salespersons, receptionist, traffic department and experienced, engaging on-air personalities.

Tips & Warnings

  • The FCC cannot tell you whether a frequency will be available in a particular location, or help in the preparation of applications (except for questions of a general nature).
  • You may also want to explore other options such as Low Power FM (LPFM) licenses, which are more readily available. However, your broadcast range will be limited to only about three miles. You are still required to obtain an FCC broadcast license for LPFM stations, even at such low powers as one watt or less.
  • Alternatively, establishing an internet-only radio station might be a good way to reach a worldwide audience while waiting for your FCC application to be approved.
  • Unlicensed broadcast operation is strictly prohibited by the FCC. Fines and/or criminal prosecution may result from illegal operation of an unlicensed station.

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