After nearly ten years of studies, hearings, rule-making and continued resistance from the full-power broadcast industry, the U.S. Congress passed the Local Community Radio Act of 2010 authorizing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to license low-power FM (LPFM) radio stations to qualified community-based, non-profit educational organizations throughout the nation.
With a 24-year track record as a non-profit arts presenter, a clear educational mission, access to locally originated content and federal grant management experience, we met the criteria for applicants and decided to pursue this opportunity. During a short application window in late 2013, the FCC Media Bureau received over 2,800 applications for radio stations, including ours.
We expected some aspects of the application to be quite complicated but still managed to underestimate its true level of difficulty. In the end, with invaluable assistance from several radio engineers, consultants and community radio advocates, we submitted an application without the technical mistakes that could have resulted in our prompt dismissal.
Eight anxious months later, on July 29, 2014, the FCC officially granted the Brownsville Society for the Performing Arts a Construction Permit to build a low power FM radio station to service Brownsville on 105.1 MHz of the FM band.
We are now in the process of buying studio and transmission equipment, negotiating for studio space and determining the final location of our transmission antenna. We will request the FCC to grant us a License to Cover, officially making us an on-air FCC Licensee, as soon as the equipment is installed, tested and ready.
Unlike full-power commercial AM and FM stations, our FCC License will not expire or need periodic renewals. It is unassignable, unlimited, unassignable and was granted to the BSPA totally free of charge. Experts on the subject consider this as the last time the FCC will allocate additional analog FM radio frequencies. There is simply no more clear space available. The implications are considerable. KXIQ-LP 105.1 FM will be the only secular FM radio station in Brownsville to broadcast live at any time of the day or night.
Within our predicted service area (see below), we expect to reach most of Brownsville and an adjacent portion of Matamoros with a strong, clear analog radio signal in stereo sound. The FCC calculates a population that exceeds 150,000 residents within the core of our service area, not including Mexico. Others point out that, with our flat terrain and lack of high buildings possibly obstructing the signal, our reach could be considerably greater, especially with the high quality transmission equipment we plan to use. Listeners with better radio receivers and reception antennae will enjoy our broadcasts well beyond our predicted service area.
Growth into digital radio broadcasting and the expansion of LPFM service areas will eventually happen and, as FCC Licensees, we'll be there when it happens.
Like most community organizations in the area, BSPA has struggled to effectively promote its events, inform the public, generate interest in good causes and otherwise get the word out. No more. Tens of thousands of Brownsville residents of all ages and backgrounds will be soon listening to our radio station. Every day.
Insofar as programming, the BSPA simply intends to expand its core mission of producing quality cultural entertainment that is mostly inaccessible or unavailable to a large portion of our community. 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 events, concerts and festivals.
Initially we'll stream quite a bit of high-quality content but, as we develop our technical and financial capabilities, we'll produce a greater portion of locally originated programming.
We will air local news and weather reports, national and international news, special interest and educational programs, local emergency broadcasts and public service announcements, support for healthy living, our museums, the zoo, our parks, sports, downtown revitalization our listeners will learn about the non-profits that enhance our quality of life.
All you'll need to do is turn on the radio and tune it to 105.1 FM. That's 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 less cryptic but still technical overview, you can visit the websites of RECnet or Prometheus Radio Project, two of the nation's most influential community radio advocates. Special thanks to Michelle Bradley of REC Networks, an expert on the subject of community radio, for providing the technical, legal and strategic guidance that made this possible. Thanks Michi!