How to set up an FM radio station

Updated April 17, 2017

The FM, or frequency modulation, radio station was one of the first forms of large-scale communication in the world. In the United States, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) controls who can broadcast messages and on which FM stations. Setting up an FM radio station doesn't necessarily take a great deal of funding, but it does require some patience with the FCC and willingness to abide by its rules and regulations. Empowered with an awareness of the FCC's rules and required forms will ease your transition from aspiring DJ to successful radio host.

Decide on what magnitude you would like to broadcast for your station's purposes. There are three levels of licensing for radio stations: low power FM stations, high power FM commercial stations, and Internet radio. No matter how you intend on broadcasting, you need to get permission to do so from the FCC.

Complete all necessary forms with the FCC. A low power station requires FCC Form 319, while a commercial station requires FCC Form 302-FM. (See Reference 1) For filing information, or for help filling out a form, contact the Consumer Information Bureau at 1-888-CALL-FCC. For telephone assistance filling out radio broadcast forms, call 202-418-2700.

Pay any applicable fees to opening your station and acquiring your FM address. Either download, print, fill out or mail in the FCC Form 159 or register with the FCC online at and fill out an electronic application.

Order your broadcasting equipment once you have received a construction permit from the FCC. Everything you need to broadcast on FM radio can be purchased for as little as a few hundred dollars for a small-scale station, to several hundred thousand dollars for a large commercial station.

Plan a budget. Broadcasting an FM radio station costs money in royalties, and depending on the scale of your operation, you will need a budget and possibly a way of monetising your station to recoup these costs.

Begin broadcasting. Host your radio station off the air for the first week or two while you discover issues than can go wrong and then adjust accordingly. Start making live broadcasts once you are comfortable.

Market and promote your FM radio station. Create flyers, business cards and brochures, and distribute them in a community of people likely to appreciate the music your station plays. For instance, if your station plays a lot of Top 40 and pop music, then a local college would be a good place to advertise. Consider hosting a contest to raise awareness of your station by sign-ups and word-of-mouth advertising. For larger scale stations, you may even want to promote with local newspaper and magazine ads and television commercials.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer
  • 3 Microphones
  • 2 CD Players
  • Phone Line
  • Record Player (Optional)
  • 12 to 15 Channel Mixer
  • FM Transmitter
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About the Author

Sam Fitz started writing in 1999 as a journalist for his high-school newspaper. His work has seen publication on several reputable user-submitted Internet article directories since November of 2009. Fitz's writing specializes in the areas of cooking, fitness, nutrition and computers. He holds an associate degree in general studies from Quinsigamond Community College.