Help Setting Up A Commercial Fm Radio Station


Thread Starter
May 14, 2014
Can someone give me a ball park for what the start up cost is for a commercial station? I plan to rent tower space somewhere but I do not know what a fair price is for that as well. All information is welcome and thank you for your help!


"On the Air" in MI
Pub Member / Supporter
Oct 13, 2007
West Central Michigan
There's no set or ballpark "cost." All setups are different, all scenarios vary. You'll have purchase price of CP (construction permit) or existing license, music licensing to at least BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, Yearly regulatory fees, Tower rent from "the biggies" is not only high, but they are ruthless on enforcing high-dollar insurance liability policies. Privately owned towers are a better bet, but YOU'LL be responsible for a structural analysis study to make sure your antennas don't cause overload of the tower. Other than that, you've got commercial insurance including libel/slander (if you have a good carrier)...and the usual electric bills, rent, internet, and phone.

On the equipment side, bare minimum, a good quality audio mixer board with program and audition channels, software and PC to automate, software and PC to record callers and do production of commercials, audio processing for your tailored "sound" and of course the transmitter, transmission lines, and antenna system. All of this is assuming it's an FM you're setting up. Oh, don't forget the software for scheduling commercials, (known as "traffic") and a music scheduling software system, too. The Government mandates you have an EAS system for emergency preparedness, and that minimum price is around $2500, no choice.

With due respect to your ambitions, and not knowing your qualifications, if you have not been active IN the field and need to ask costs, chances are you're setting yourself up for failure. Radio is a LIFESTYLE these days when privately owned, not just an income, and not a "license to print money." It takes talent, long days of work, talented engineers, good credit, knowledge of audio processing, BARE MINIMUM. You also have to be in a market which can support you, and have excellent salespeople!

If you have some experience, some cash, and lots of time to invest in your own company, go buy a distressed station and build it back up. It takes YEARS, but can be very rewarding if done properly. Localism is the key. It's no longer, "location, location, location, " it's" LOCALISM ,LOCALISM, LOCALISM" Operating an LPFM is an option, but those must be owned and operated by non-profit organizations, are limited to 100 watts, and still have all the EAS costs and legal restrictions of the "big" sticks. Might be good to get your feet wet AT a local LPFM where volunteerism is encouraged and what you learn can be used later as you grow in the field.

NOBODY should take lightly the effort to own a communications business, especially radio. When it IS successful, however, it is personally and professionally rewarding. Now that I've depressed you, I assure you it CAN be done, but the road is not easy.

Good Luck to you in your endeavor and your decisions!
Keep us posted.


RabbitEars Webmaster
Staff member
Jun 21, 2008
Alexandria, VA, US
I'm one of those people who has always thought "boy, wouldn't it be cool to own a radio and/or TV station," but the more I have thought about it over the years, the less interested I am. In my own case, I'm very much an engineer. I'd have endless fun building the station from a technical point of view, then the time would come to program it and I'd likely lose my shirt because I just have no interest in that end of things.

Oh, and unless you're in a rural area, do not expect to be able to build a new station in your local area. You'll have to go somewhere else to do so. If I wanted to start a new station where I grew up, I could do so. I've done the engineering work to know it could be done. But it's in the middle of nowhere and a radio station would likely not succeed as a business there.

It's a huge investment of time, money, and effort, with what is likely to be little return aside from pride and self-satisfaction, unless you either get lucky and/or do a lot of work to make your station very appealing to local listeners and advertisers.

And I say all of this as someone who loves radio and TV.

- Trip


"On the Air" in MI
Pub Member / Supporter
Oct 13, 2007
West Central Michigan
Every engineer I've ever known who owned a station made sure it sounded EXCELLENT! Bet your "dream" station would, too. Good points made, too! Glad you chimed-in. I hope we're not "dashing" someone's dream, I just know it took years of learning, working my way UP in announcing, saving written references, having some engineering/electronics knowledge, and learning from some GREAT programmers with whom I've worked how to make radio sound pleasant overall, and to a wide-enough audience to garner listeners and advertisers. Thanks for adding to the thread on the "reality' side. If our original post-er still wants "in"...we can all help a bit along the way, but the road is long to "getting there."
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