Common Frequency's Ambitious Outreach

I’ve recently received a couple of e-mails from people who have been contacted by the “Common Frequency Project” soliciting assistance in building new full-power FM community radio stations. Common queries include, “what is this about?” and “is it legit?”
Common Frequency has a web site which explains quite a bit. Most of its founders hail from Davis, California, where they’ve been involved with multiple community radio projects, including building LPFM stations. Common Frequency’s goals include identifying and preparing non-profit groups for an upcoming application window for full-power non-commercial FM radio station construction permits.
The window itself has not been formally announced, but Common Frequency wants people to be prepared for it. The concern is that once the window comes to pass, the FCC will be flooded by submissions from godcasters, much like what happened when the FCC solicited applications for new FM translator stations in 2003. If this happens, the godcasters will most likely snap up the vast majority of available channels.
Common Frequency’s goal is a laudable one, but those who might join in this particular project need to be keenly aware of what sorts of burdens they’ll be taking on. Applying for, constructing, and operating a full-power FM radio station is expensive, much more so than running an LPFM station. Not only does the basic transmission infrastructure cost more, but the administrative costs – what is required in the license application process, and the rules full-power FM stations must conform to (from which LPFM stations are exempted) – are significantly higher. In cases where multiple applicants compete for a single available frequency, these costs multiply.
Taking on such a project is not for your average non-profit living on a shoestring budget. It’s best accomplished by an organization specifically set up for the sole mission of building and running a radio station, with flexible fiscal muscle and the willingness to spend years on the task. Anyone interested in undertaking such an effort needs to do a lot of pre-planning. It’s not clear just how much Common Frequency will help in this regard, but the more it does the lower applicants’ initial burdens will be. Raising awareness of this unique opportunity to expand community radio is just the first step.