VIROQUA, Wis. (AP) — Federal officials are renewing efforts to grant licenses for low-power FM stations, a move intended to help nonprofit organizations reach local populations.
Low-power FM stations are limited to 100 watts and a range of about three miles, the La Crosse Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1fpDTYd ). There are 34 such stations currently licensed in Minnesota and Wisconsin, but another 36 low-power FM stations are approved for construction and another 47 applications are pending.
"It's an exciting time," said Julia Wierski, a director with the Prometheus Radio Project, which helps organizations that are trying to start stations.
She said low-power FM stations give voice to communities that otherwise wouldn't be able to afford expensive media stations.
The Federal Communications Commission estimates that the basic cost to equip a low-power radio station is about $75,000, not including land, buildings, furnishings or tower space. A full-power radio station can cost at least 10 times more.
The licenses were first made available in 2000, but after the first round of applications the FCC stopped taking new applications until last year. When the agency began taking new applications, it receives 3,000 in less than a month.
The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse received a construction permit during the latest round of licensing. Linda Dickmeyer, the chairwoman of the school's communications department declined to comment on the license.
The FCC is also considering a license for Warehouse Alliance, a nonprofit organization that developed from the music scene in downtown La Crosse.
Warehouse founder Steve Harm said programming ideas are still evolving, but he hopes to reach a 14- to 25-year-old audience with a mix of music, interviews and educational programming.
"It seems like it could give kids a great forum to get some experience in broadcast media," he said.
The FCC dismissed Warehouse's original application, saying it failed to address potential conflicts with another signal. Harm said the group is appealing the decision.
"There is enough bandwidth for everyone," he said.
Information from: La Crosse Tribune, http://www.lacrossetribune.com