How to Start a Radio Station

By: HowStuffWorks.com Contributors  | 

Have you ever wished you could start your own radio station? There are three different types or radio stations you can start: low-power (for nonprofit organizations), full-power (for commercial radio stations) or internet streaming (broadcasting live online). Here's how to start a non-internet radio station.

  1. Apply for a frequency. It may take a long time before you're assigned a frequency [source FCC].
  2. Apply for a license. It's illegal to operate an unlicensed radio station, even at extremely low power [source: FCC].
  3. Establish a source of funding. Remember, you'll need to pay for studio space and power, among other things.

Once you've taken care of these things, you'll be ready to proceed.

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  1. Decide if you want to start a low-power or full-power radio station.
  2. Apply for a broadcast station construction permit from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This includes paying an application fee. [source: FCC]
  3. Decide how much power you need based on how far you want your station to broadcast. A full-power station will need tens of thousands of watts, while a low-power station may only need a thousand watts.
  4. Buy the necessary equipment, including transmitter gear and an antenna. You may need to rent space on a tower for your antenna.
  5. Design your studio. You'll need sound proofing, headphones, speakers, microphones and more
  6. Recruit broadcasters. Make sure you have enough people to fill up all the time slots.
  7. Have your broadcasters practice doing shows for a few weeks before going on the air. They'll need to get comfortable with the microphone and develop their technical skills.
  8. Work all the kinks out of your program schedule. Make sure everything is running smoothly before you have your first broadcast.

Be responsible and use etiquette on the air. You never know who might be listening.

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Originally Published: Apr 1, 2011

Start Radio Station FAQ

Can you start your own radio station?
Creating a radio station on your own is easier than it sounds. You can use an online tool such as Radio.co to get started with relative ease, allowing you to broadcast your content without investing in expensive equipment.
What equipment do I need to start a radio station?
The most important equipment you’ll need includes a microphone, headphones and playback devices. You'll have to pay for engineering fees and transmitting equipment to broadcast signals to your target audience. All the gear also needs to be licensed and approved for the country you're operating in.
How much does it cost to start an FM radio station?
You can launch a small-scale FM radio station (like a campus radio station) in the U.S. for about $20,000. Starting a medium-scale, standard station can easily cost close to $350,000 or more.
Can I broadcast a radio station without a license?
It is illegal to start and broadcast a radio station without a license from the appropriate authorities. Expect to spend around $4,000 for application and licensing fees.
Is a radio station profitable?
Radio stations don't charge their audience for their content. Instead, they generate profits from advertisement revenue and sponsorships. This really depends on how popular the radio station is, so it’s unlikely that starting a radio station will be very profitable.

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