Press "Enter" to skip to content

Free Range Radio goes off the air

Brief by Jane Carpenter

Communication – March 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine

Salida’s unlicensed FM station — Free Range Radio at 101.1 Mhz, operated by the Salida Radio Club — has gone off the air. The action was voluntary, although there was the very real fear of arrest and prosecution by the Federal Communications Commission.

But if proposed new regulations are adopted by the FCC, then Free Range Radio — and many other low-power, low-cost radio stations — could legally start or resume broadcasting.

As it is, starting a radio station costs at least $50,000, and there are steep regulatory hurdles to surmount before the FCC will grant a license. The process requires expensive engineers and attorneys, even though we now have affordable technology for low-power broadcasting that will not interfere with existing stations’ signals.

But on Jan. 28, the FCC voted 4-1 to consider licensing low-power radio stations, and is soliciting comments which might address these criteria:

1) Non-commercial.

2) Local ownership.

3) One license to a customer — no chains.

4) Local programming with minimal outside material.

5) Quick, simple, and cheap licensing procedure.

If that strikes you as a good way to produce more diversity on the airwaves, or if you’ve got an urge to broadcast issues and public affairs in your community, then you should send a supportive comment to:

Office of the Secretary

Federal Communications Commission

445 12th Street SW

Washington DC 20554

Comments can also be emailed to, and the commissioners also have email addresses: Chairman William Kennard,; Susan Ness,; Harold Furchtgott-Roth,; Michael Powell,; Gloria Tristani:

Comments will be taken for 60 days, until March 26, and then there will be 30 days for rebuttals. The FCC proposal was a response to many inquiries from city governments, schools, churches, and broadcast-minded citizens who wanted to operate legal, low-power radio stations.

Salida’s Free Range Radio was on the air for nine months, reaching a five-mile radius with its 6-watt transmitter. Its equipment cost less than $2,000.

As 1998 ended, though, the Salida Radio Club was advised by FCC Commissioner Susan Ness that civil and criminal penalties could be assessed if broadcasting continued.

It wasn’t an idle threat — with guns and warrants, the FCC has busted unlicensed stations in Miami and Albuquerque, and each person present was fined $11,000.

We’ve got a lot of “dead air” in Central Colorado, with plenty of room on the broadcast band for some new voices. The proposed new rules would allow that to happen — legally.

The Salida Radio Club is now in the process of adopting bylaws, electing directors, and otherwise setting up as a non-profit corporation so that it can apply for a license if the FCC will allow real public access to the electronic spectrum.

— Jane Carpenter