Community Radio Q&A

Q: Is APB one station or three? There is only one frequency, 101.1 FM. Doesn’t that mean just one station?
A: Legally, each of us is a separate station. There is one frequency, which will be time-shared by our three different stations, per approval by the FCC. We three are the survivors of a seven-way challenge for this frequency, which is the only one available that can cover Providence. Agreeing to time-share means that we all get a chance to serve the community, which will mean a greater diversity of content and coverage than if only one or two of us did. We all applied with the original hope of having our own station to ourselves, as probably all applicants do. The time-share is a necessary compromise. We all knew this was going to be highly contested, so we are not surprised by it, and our similar goals make it easy for us to collaborate and share resources.

Q: So, what will the call letters be?
A: By law, we must each have and use our own call separate callsign during the time periods we have reserved under our FCC-approved timeshare agreement. We are all in the process of securing our separate callsigns at this time. We must use these at the top of each hour to clearly identify which station is broadcasting at that time, but we will likely also ‘co-brand’ our joint project to acknowledge our greater collaboration to serve this community, using non-legal ‘APB’ spots.

Q: I have a local business and would like to support this project. Can I buy an ad?
A: By law, Low-Power FM (LPFM) is a “noncommercial educational” (NCE) broadcast service, meaning that it is illegal for us to run ads. Each of our stations can however accept underwriting or sponsorship, which is similar in that your contribution is acknowledged on the air, but without common ad-like features.

Q: What are “ad-like features”?
A: To avoid violating NCE rules, the acknowledgement may identify the contributor and describe their service or product in strictly factual terms, without a “call to action” (an instruction to the listener to patronise the business, using imperative grammar; e.g., “Eat at Joe’s”), specific promises (e.g., “You’ll love it!”), or comparatives to competitors. (E.g,, “Best hamburgers around”) Generally, descriptive spots demand a greater contribution than those that merely identify the contributor.

Q: But I still get a mention, either way, right?
A: Yes. It’s in fact illegal not to identify the underwriter or sponsor.

Q: What’s the difference between underwriting and sponsorship?
A: It’s not a strict distinction, but ‘underwriting’ usually refers to monetary support of existing programming (including an entire station), while ‘sponsorship’ usually refers to seed donation that helps new programming get off the ground. (Or, sometimes, contributions towards station improvement.) Legally, there is no distinction. In both cases, however, the law requires the broadcaster to acknowledge the underwriter or sponsor during periods that they have agreed to do so. Many underwriters and sponsors prefer to support specific programmes, and the law requires the broadcaster to acknowledge them during the periods that they have specified. If an underwriter or sponsor does not specify any specific programme, then they may be mentioned at any time (generally, a few times a day, such as at noon, midnight, etc.).

Q: Could APB do a live show from my place of business?
A: ‘APB’ is a project, not a station, and therefore cannot. But one or more of the partner stations could agree to it. As to the further legalities, in respect to noncommercial broadcasting, that’s a question for a lawyer. It might prove illegal under any circumstances, but it might depend on specifics.

Q: How do I get my own show on the radio?
A: Each station makes its own determinations based on its own rules and policies, in compliance with FCC Rules and Regulations. Since we’re all far from airtime yet, specific rules and policies don’t exist for AS220, and ProComRad policies are not in place, but would presumably follow their core philosophy, which is to try to make it possible for anyone and everyone who wants to be on the air to do so. Brown Student & Community Radio currently streams live at bsrlive.com and offers training to become approved programmers at their station.
One way to prepare yourself is to become familiar with audio recording and production. Podcasts are a great way to not only learn technical aspects of audio recording and editing, but can up your interviewing skills and begin forming an audience for your show. Look at Prometheus Radio Project’s podcast resource page for a list of tutorials and instruction materials, or take an Audio Recording Basics workshop at AS220 Media Arts!

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