As a result of the Local Community Radio Act of 2010, signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was authorized by the U.S. Congress to license low-power FM (LPFM) radio stations to community-based, non-profit educational organizations throughout the nation.
After three years of studies, hearings, rule making and continued resistance from the full-power broadcast industry, during a short application window in November of 2013 the FCC received over 2,800 applications for LPFM stations. By the end of 2015, nearly 2,000 LPFM Construction Permits throughout the USA had been granted by the Media Bureau of the FCC. Including ours.
With a 24 year proven track record as a non-profit arts presenter, a clear educational mission, access to locally originated content and considerable grant management experience, BSPA felt it could meet criteria for LPFM applicants and should pursue this unique opportunity. So we did.
On November 13, 2013, the BSPA applied for an available frequency and, eight anxious months later, on July 29, 2014, the FCC granted BSPA a construction permit to build a radio station in Brownsville, Texas to broadcast non-commercial educational programing on 105.1 MHz of the FM band.
We assumed the technical portion of the application process might be a bit complicated but really did underestimate the true level of difficulty. With the invaluable help of radio engineering consultants and major community radio advocates, we submitted an application without mistakes, avoided sharing a frequency and demonstrated our technical compliance. The smallest mistake in our declarations would have caused our prompt dismissal.
Special thanks to Michelle Bradley of REC Networks, the premier champion and technical expert in the nation on the subject of community radio. Without her help we had little more than a poor chance of succeeding. The Prometheus Radio Project provided us with a wealth of LPFM technical information and a vision for achieving social justice through community radio.
Thankfully, this application process is over. The rest should be easy... or should we say, easier. All we need now is to raise the funds to build the station and request our License to Cover (broadcast) from the FCC whenever the studio and transmission equipment is installed, tested and ready.
Unlike full-power, commercial AM and FM stations, our FCC license will not expire or require periodic renewals, it is unassignable and was granted to the BSPA totally free of charge.
Experts on the subject consider this as the very last time that the FCC will allocate any more analog FM radio frequencies. There is simply no more clear space available.
Growth into digital radio broadcasting and the expansion of LPFM service areas will eventually happen and, as existing FCC licensees, we'll be there when it happens.
The implications of this achievement are considerable. KXIQ-LP 105.1 FM will be the only secular FM radio station in Brownsville to broadcast live programming.
Within our predicted service area, we expect to reach all of Brownsville and a small adjacent portion of Matamoros with a strong, clear analog FM radio signal in stereo sound.
Others have pointed out that, with our flat terrain and minimal amount of high buildings obstructing the antenna signal, our reach could be somewhat greater, especially with the high quality transmission equipment we plan to use. A better quality radio and a good antenna would of course be most helpful at the furthest reaches of our predicted service area. Please see the map below.
Like most other community organizations in Brownsville, BSPA has struggled to effectively promote its events, inform the public of good works, generate interest for good causes and otherwise "get the word out". Tens of thousands of Brownsville residents of all ages, backgrounds or heritage will soon be listening to our radio station. Every day.
Insofar as programming, the BSPA intends to broadly expand its core mission of producing quality cultural entertainment not typically offered by the mass media or is otherwise unavailable to residents of our service area. Rather than focusing on a certain genre or style of entertainment, the BSPA plans to broadcast a wide variety of recorded music, curated programs, live music shows, concerts and festivals.
Initially we'll stream quite a bit of the high-quality that is abundantly available but, as we develop our technical and financial capabilities, we intend to produce a greater portion of locally originated programming of our choice.
Finally, we will offer local news and weather reports, national and international news, public interest and educational programs, local and regional emergency broadcasting, public service announcements and much needed support for healthy living, our museums, the zoo, our parks, sports, downtown revitalization and the myriad non-profits that enhance the quality of our life.
All you'll need to do is turn on the radio and tune it to 105.1 FM. Thats all.
What a privilege... we can hardly wait!
To learn more about LPFM radio, you can find the FCC's explanation if you click here. For a slightly less cryptic but still technical overview, you can visit the websites of RECnet or Prometheus Radio Project, two of the nation's most knowledgeable and influential community radio advocates. We are indebted to both of these admirable organizations and to other close friends who provided us with superb technical, legal and strategic guidance, at nominal or pro-bono rates, from beginning to end. Gracias!