Low-power FM stations in Minn., Wis., get boost

Published 9:17 am Monday, February 17, 2014

VIROQUA, Wis. — 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. 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.

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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.