A friend of mine who programs a NPR News station in a medium sized market sent me a question I’d like to hear more often: How can we start a new Triple A radio station?
My friend says his organization is negotiating on an FM translator and they want to feed it from one of their HD channels. Without betraying my friend’s station and market, here is where I suggest starting: Examine successful Triple A stations in similar markets.
I’ve done this type of consulting work many times and it usually involves a Feasibility Study, projected budget, programming plan, use of digital platforms and Social Media, and, most importantly, what are the chances a new Triple A station will succeed.
I typically start by comparing a market with other markets of a similar size that have a successful Triple A station. Below are three comparative stations and markets.
WNRN is more that just one station in Charlottesville. It is a regional player with repeaters and translators strategically placed in several Virginia cities.
WNRN is owned and operated by an independent, non-profit organization and is not tied to any university or other institution. It began broadcasting in August 1996.
The majority of WNRN’s budget comes from pledging, underwriting and events. WNRN has a small professional staff plus volunteers and student interns.
Like many noncom Triple A stations, WNRN airs few nationally syndicated programs. The emphasis is local and ties within the community have been a key to WNRN’s success.
In 1976, two men, Paul Bear and Frank Milan, went to a bar (insert your joke here). The night at the La Caverna, resulted in a six year struggle to secure a new frequency and start a community radio station. KXCI debuted in November 1983.
In the first few years KXCI was a typical Lorenzo Milam, Pacifica-type station with a mish-match of programs and the usual governance squabbles. The Tucson Weekly said about KXCI: "If you don't like something that you're hearing at this moment, just wait a minute and something different will be on." Usually listeners got bored and didn’t come back.
By 1995 it became apparent there was no future in narrow, advocacy programming. KXCI evolved into a Tucson-area music and cultural curator. Most spoken word shows were replaced with Triple A music. New management entered in 2014 and KXCI began building for the future, including a very successful capital campaign.
WMVY CAPE COD & MARTHA’S VINEYARD
WMVY began as a commercial station in 1981. When commercial radio consolidation heated up in the mid 1990s, the value of licenses went up dramatically. WMVY’s owners sold the FM license and redirected the money into streaming audio.
Mvyradio soon became one of the most popular online music sites. It still is today. Then in November 2013, the nonprofit Friends of Mvyradio acquired the license for 88.7 FM located on Martha’s Vineyard. WMVY built a regional presence by the wise use of translators, repeaters and HD-to-FM.