The Fannin County Board of Education was presented the opportunity to apply for a low power FM radio license. Dr. Michael Gwatney and Scott Barnstead presented the offer before the Board of Education prior to applying. The request brought before the board was the process of applying for the LPFM Radio Station. Typically, the LPFM radio stations are held by nonprofit organizations such as school systems, community groups, local government and churches and are not available to individuals for commercial operations. They usually service an area between a three and ten mile radius.
Gwatney and Barnstead presented the argument that the school system could benefit from the radio station to announce and promote upcoming events, to provide a direct line of contact to parents, students and other stakeholders regarding system wide events to anyone with access to an FM radio. Safety precautions would also be a direct benefit. Gwatney explained that in the event of an emergency, the radio station would be another direct line of communication to the community. Additional positives of obtaining the radio station would include the promotion of school wide events including the possibility of audio broadcasts of events, daily announcements broadcasted throughout the day, student and faculty produced scheduled airplay about happenings at each school and, lastly, provide students with the eventual opportunity to learn the aspects of radio production, sports broadcasting and broadcast journalism at a high school level.
The proposed location of the studio for the station would be on campus at the high school but the transmitter and antenna would be located within the school system or community.
After receiving approval from the Board of Education to continue, the next step for Gwatney and Barnstead is to apply for a construction permit with the Federal Communications Commission. The cost to apply for this permit is free and will be completed online during the second week of October.
In preparing for this application process the Blue Ridge City Council held a special called meeting to vote on the issue of allowing the antenna and transmitter to be placed somewhere within the city limits. The council approved it with a unanimous vote.
Once the application is received and considered by the FCC, if it grants the Fannin County Board of Education to continue, the school will be allowed to purchase equipment and begin the installation process. The applicant usually has up to three years to raise the funding and complete construction, which would be broadcast grade audio equipment and Emergency Alert System equipment and a transmitter.
The projected construction costs are a total of $24,000 that can be paid out of SPLOST funding. This includes up to $12,000 for a transmitter, $3,000 for the Emergency Alert Equipment, up to $6,000 for the studio equipment and up to $3,000 for a radio engineer consultant.
After construction, the operational costs are expected to be minimal on the grounds that student and faculty can be the air staff, maintenance and repair as needed, radio engineer and consultant as needed and content licensing, which would allow the station to play copyrighted music.
Without a doubt, this is a historic opportunity that could provide the school system a very unique and accessible voice in the community on the FM radio. Barnstead researched the opportunity and stated that he wasn’t aware of any other school in the state of Georgia that had its own radio station. He did say that he was able to find a couple that were located in South Carolina and Alabama.
FYN will continue to report on the process of the monumental and historical opportunity for Fannin County School System. We hope to report the approval from the FCC and have the upcoming radio station.