How to Start a Community Radio Station

Before you think about starting a community radio station, you firstly need a registered non profit organization . For this you will need to register a group either as a society, association, nonprofit incorporation or a trust. The rules for forming a nonprofit may vary from country to country. Check out your local laws to  find out how you can form a registered non profit association.

Assuming that you already registered an association of members, you need to do the following  to start a community radio station:


The first step is to identify the radius over which you want to broadcast. Remember, longer the radius, higher is the complexities involved in setting up the station.  You could thus begin small (say up to 20 miles radius or so). This leads to identifying the type of radio station that  you would like to begin with. (For more information on this read : types of radio station )

2. The second step is to find out the licensing norms of your country. Some countries do allow for unlicensed transmission using low ERP transmitters (say 100 watt or less). (For more information on which transmitter suits you best, read: Transmission equipments for radio stations). Some other country might require one to obtain a license. In that case you will need to put up an application for license. (Read License application process).  If you discover that your country allows unlicensed broadcast, you can directly delve into other aspects leaving asides licensing application.

3.  Prepare a detailed plan. This should begin with identification of your target audience’s geographical location. A demographic survey is the ideal way to identify details like gender distribution, tastes and preferences, issues and interests.

4.  This is followed by identifying and mobilizing of  volunteers to work as administrators, technicians, anchors, program producers, and community access group. You should clearly identify and form  smaller sub-groups to be given charge of managing technical aspects,  handling day to day operations, content programming, administration, training, promotions and fund raising.(read Human resource requirement of a radio station)

5. The plan should separately identify means of fundraising for start up (read : capital expenditure to set up a radio station) and day to day operations.(read: expenses for a radio station.). A detailed financial feasibility study is mandated. Download free book on : Financing a radio station start up.

6. Next, the plan should capture technical feasibility studies for the radio station. This requires identifying studio and transmission equipments and equipment vendors. (For more information read: Equipments to start a radio station)

7. This is followed by marketing feasibility tests for the community radio station.  One may question that a community radio station is not supposed to be doing marketing as its primary job is to spread some social message. However before it can spread any social message, it first needs to survive to do that. You any ways need income, the only difference here is that the income is invested back into the radio station to increase its reach and is not distributed as profits as in case of commercial radio stations. Let me reiterate that a stable income source is a must even for a community radio station. (for more information read: How does a radio station generate income)

8.The plan should then identify and design quality content that is aimed at attracting and retaining a large listener base. This is the bottom line for running a radio station whether it be commercial or  a community radio station. If your program contents can attract, retain and grow your listener base, every thing else including funds wil follow. (for more info read: Content designing for radio station)