Feasibility Study

 

 

Feasibility of Starting a

Campus Radio Station at

The University of Texas San Antonio

 

 

Prepared for:

Diane Abdo, Technical Writing Professor

 

 

 

Prepared by:

Paul McIntier

 

 

 

December 15, 2013

 

MEMO

 

To:                 Diane Abdo

 

From:             Paul McIntier

 

Date:              December 15, 2013

 

Subject:         Feasibility Report for UTSA Campus Radio Station

 

 

 

Enclosed is the study you requested of the feasibility of a radio station on the UTSA campus. There were three station types to consider, but I believe the Internet radio station would be the best option.

 

There are limitations to each of the station options, including the Internet radio station, but the pros for the Internet station outweigh the cons in all criteria measured.

 

I will be happy to meet with you to discuss my findings.

 

Contents

 

Executive Summary......................................................4

 

Introduction................................................................5

 

Definitions..................................................................5

 

LPFM Advantages.........................................................6

 

High Power Advantages.................................................8

 

Internet Advantages.....................................................9

 

LPFM Disadvantages...................................................10

 

High Power Disadvantages...........................................11

 

Internet Disadvantages...............................................12

 

Conclusion.................................................................12

 

References.................................................................13

 

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

            This report explores the feasibility of starting a campus radio station on the University of Texas San Antonio’s Main Campus for broadcasting music, UTSA news, sports, and campus information throughout greater San Antonio. In addition, the station would also broadcast San Antonio news, and local weather. Beyond this, the purpose of the station is three-fold: to enhance awareness of UTSA in the San Antonio area, to keep UTSA students abreast of news and activities in San Antonio, and to provide an avenue for communication majors to explore the world of radio broadcasting. Such a station would dovetail nicely with UTSA’s Vision 2016 plan that aspires to “stimulate social and economic development through activities such as outreach, service, and collaborative research and commercialization programs that respond to community need and align with the UTSA mission.” Although UTSA has a resource -- The Paisano newspaper -- for sharing news among the campus’ students, faculty, and staff, adding a radio station would enhance the relationship between San Antonio and UTSA. A radio station would also open doors for a new Radio, Television, and Film (RTF) program on campus. However, a campus radio station that would reach the greater San Antonio area requires money, infrastructure, and personnel. Alternatives to a city-blanketing campus radio station include a low power FM (LPFM) campus-only station or a worldwide internet station. Given the current budget and personnel limitations, UTSA should consider the internet or campus-only alternatives, but keep an eye toward expanding the station as resources permit.

 

INTRODUCTION

            The purpose of this feasibility study is to determine whether a radio station on the UTSA campus, broadcasting throughout San Antonio, is a viable medium for communicating and exchanging information between the city and UTSA. This report will define the different kinds of radio stations available to a college campus and how each type of station might benefit UTSA and the community. It will then explain the different stations’ advantages and disadvantages, including costs, infrastructure, and personnel. Finally, the report will recommend a cost-effective solution that will still meet a Vision 2016 goal, as well as provide a new communication medium for the campus.

DEFINITIONS

            Typically, college campus radio stations are run by college students and staff to communicate campus information, music, and local news to university students. Many stations are low power, while others are high power stations and can be either commercial or non-commercial stations.

            Low Power FM (LPFM) stations provide broadcast service to small areas. Operating at l00 watts or less, LPFMs are perfect for college campus applications where the goal is campus-wide coverage. LPFMs operating at 100 watts have a typical range of a 3.5-mile radius (fcc.gov). Of course, the lower the wattage, the smaller the coverage area. However, a 100-watt station, centrally located, should easily cover UTSA’s 725-acre (1.2 square mile) campus, including remote parking lots, student-centered retail shops, and off-campus student housing. Examples of LPFMs in San Antonio include KSYM, 90.1 (San Antonio College) and KRTU, 91.7 (Trinity University), though neither station adequately reaches UTSA’s main campus.

            High Power FM stations cover entire cities or regions. These stations are less desirable for college campuses within a metropolitan area because of competition with commercial radio stations. However, college towns in remote areas often use high power stations. Because San Antonio radio listeners can receive dozens of stations, a high power campus station would face stiff competition for listenership.

            Internet radio stations work by transmitting audio over the Internet rather than airwaves. Unlike terrestrial stations, Internet radio stations are even capable of transmitting graphics. Internet radio stations are not limited by geography and need few components to broadcast.

LPFM ADVANTAGES

            Cost. LPFMs are relatively cheap -- less than $15,000 to start with a monthly maintenance of around $1,000 (prometheusradio.org). A typical LPFM can cost as little as $3,000 in startup costs, but this figure can rise depending on several factors, especially equipment (Morton). (See the sample charts below.) Because low power stations require less powerful equipment than high power stations, equipment costs are lower.

#

Low Power FM Transmission System

 

QTY

DESCRIPTION

PRICE

1

Low Power FM Exciter/Transmitter 10 Watts (FCC Type Accepted)

4,000

1

Low Power FM Amplifier 100 Watts (FCC Type Accepted)

2,000

1 lot

Transmitting antenna w/stacking harness

1,200

1 lot

Transmission line (100 ft w/hangers & terminations)

1,000

1

Modulation monitor

3,000

1

EAS/CAP Receiver

4,000

1

Equipment shelter w/concrete pad

19,500

1 lot

Miscellaneous wire, ground strap, & installation materials

500

1 lot

Labor for installation of transmission system

2,000

1

STL transmitter/receiver w/antennas [if needed]

10,000

 

 

 


 

 

Low Power FM On-Air Control Room Equipment

 

QTY

DESCRIPTION

PRICE

1

Audio console w/monitor amplifier

10,000

1 lot

Hard disc system

10,000

2

Speakers @ $230

460

2

Microphones w/booms @ $300

600

2

Broadcast quality CD players

1,500

1

6' equipment rack w/side panels

780

2

Jack panels w/cords

2,400

2

Headphones @ $150

300

2

Distribution amplifiers @ $250

500

1 lot

Miscellaneous wire, ground strap & installation materials

2,000

1 lot

Labor for installation of control room

2,500

 

Source: www.ntia.doc.gov

 

As mentioned in the proposal, the equipment is available from several online companies, and some used equipment may even be found for considerably less cost.

            An application for an LPFM is necessary and uses FCC Form 318 (fcc.gov). The engineering section of the form may require completion by an engineering firm with knowledge of LPFM requirements and, if so, generally requires a fee that can be as little as $500 (prometheusradio.org). Fortunately, many resources are available to help start LPFMs.

            Infrastructure. Because LPFMs require very little equipment, the radio station could be housed in a dorm room or lecture hall. Doing so eliminates the need for construction beyond running cable to the transmitting antenna, installing equipment racks, and soundproofing the broadcast area.

            Another possible location would be the Paisano Media Arts Center. Scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2014, the building will house the staff of the Paisano, UTSA’s student newspaper. This building will have a suitably sized room available, and the transmitting tower could be placed on the roof, minimizing the amount of cabling needed. An added advantage would be the sharing of news, sports, and weather information between the radio station and Paisano staffs.

            Personnel. Because an LPFM requires minimal equipment, a very small staff would be necessary. If the radio station is a part of a UTSA Radio/Television/Film (RTF) program, the staff could consist of student volunteers from the program. With such a small station, only one adviser would be needed to oversee operations. If UTSA implements an RTF program, the university would assign the advisor from RTF faculty.

HIGH POWER FM ADVANTAGES

            Cost. Equipment for high power FM stations can be obtained on a lease or lease-to-purchase plan. Many websites handle such plans. More money may be spent in the end, but less outlay at the beginning means a quicker startup.

            Because high power stations reach a wider audience than LPFMs, revenues (if a commercial station) will increase. Radio advertising spots vary based on city/market, broadcast power (coverage area), time of day, and number of plays. Depending on the size of the market,  “Radio advertising rates can be as high as $500 per 60 spots in a top market like LA, or as low as $3 per 60 spots in Petoskey, MI” (Brueski). If, however, the station is a non-commercial, or public, radio station, then funding comes from private sources, fund-raising (pledge drives), or government funding.

            Infrastructure. A high power station often requires a bigger space, and additional space means facilities are available for doing audio production work as well as broadcasting. Audio production can generate -- or save -- revenues by creating programs to sell to smaller radio stations, or by producing advertising spots in-house. Talent agencies charge for voiceover talent and jingle singers, so keeping production in-house means money goes to the station instead.

            Larger stations can mean better equipment. With better equipment comes a more professional job of installation, thereby reducing the amount of maintenance or replacement costs. Rather than cobbling together used equipment and running the risk of premature equipment failure, new equipment will have warranties, parts replacement, and service plans for maintaining the investment.

            Personnel. A larger radio station means more people to handle the day-to-day work. Instead of a small number of DJs attempting to wrestle with every aspect of operations, a station or operations manager can oversee the staff. The station can hire a news director as well as dedicated news and sports reporters. More people mean better coverage, better coverage means more listeners, and more listeners mean increased revenue. In addition, if there is an RTF program on campus, the station can lure better quality personnel to increase the awareness and support of UTSA and San Antonio.

INTERNET RADIO ADVANTAGES

            Cost. Internet stations may be the most cost effective of all three options. Typically, the only equipment needed is “a modern computer running Windows, Mac OSX or Linux” and a broadband connection. In addition, a server and the software to connect to it are necessary (voscast.com). The expense for the server depends on the number of listeners, the bitrate, and the hosting service. Pricing plans are based on concurrent listeners and can start as low as $5 per month. Pricing plans for a campus station that hopes to reach many listeners begin around $100 per month. As the number of listeners grows, the fees increase. However, if the station sells advertising, then more listeners means more revenue.

            Infrastructure. As with an LPFM, an internet radio station needs very little room compared to a larger high power station. A dorm room, classroom, or any comparable space will suffice.

            Personnel. Because an off-site service actually does the streaming of the music, personnel requirements are minimal and generally limited to DJs and a faculty adviser.

 LPFM DISADVANTAGES

            Cost. Smaller stations often have less money to spend. Less money means more cost-saving measures such as used or inferior equipment, volunteer rather than paid staff, and less-than-desirable facilities. Additionally, there are monthly maintenance costs for general upkeep. If the station plays copyrighted music, an ASCAP license (for royalties paid to the composers, artists, and publishers) is required. The licensing fee is based on several factors including gross revenue. These “incidentals” can add up quickly. Finally, advisers are usually paid employees. According to Dr. Paul LeBlanc, Chair of the Department of Communication, an advisor’s pay would have to come from a university department’s budget, and few departments would agree without some return on investment (personal communication, December 5, 2013). 

            Infrastructure. As Dr. LeBlanc points out, in all three station types “space would need to be empty or taken from someone” (personal communication, December 5, 2013). Even though UTSA is adding buildings on the main campus, space is still at a premium. Staff from other overcrowded buildings will occupy offices and classrooms in the building opening soon. Once these newly vacated offices are free, other departments will lay claim to them, and so on. As with cost, there is still the question of which department would oversee the station and if that department would have the necessary space.

            Personnel. For a low power station, the advantage of needing few staff members can also be a disadvantage. Without proper oversight, mistakes will happen and rules (or laws) will be broken. If there is only one adviser, a checks and balances system should be in place. A student leader would also be beneficial to liaise with the adviser when necessary. These issues need addressing before a problem surfaces.

HIGH POWER DISADVANTAGES

            Cost. The most elaborate of the three station types is also the most expensive. However, in the case of a commercial station, advertisements generate revenue needed for operating costs. Still, as Dr. Leblanc points out, a high power station has “significant obstacles” to overcome. For a high power station to be truly effective, it should be part of an RTF undergraduate program. Such a program would require capital outlay for space, equipment, and staff. Ongoing maintenance and janitorial services must be included, as well (personal communication, December 5, 2013).

            Infrastructure. As with the low power option, space is required. Unlike the low power option, however, more space will be necessary to house not only the station, but also the RTF faculty and staff running the program. Offices, studios, and classrooms would have to be allocated. Unlike other departments with faculty in one building and classes in another, everything would need to be in the same section of a building.

            Personnel. In order to properly staff a high power station, Dr. LeBlanc believes the station and program would need four full-time, tenure-track faculty members, for an estimated cost of $300,000. This initial outlay would cover the candidate search, salaries, and benefits. With an estimated $50,000 annual salary per faculty member, the program would need to budget nearly $250,000 annually. In addition, a dedicated facility would need a technician to maintain the equipment (personal communication, December 5, 2013). In San Antonio, the annual salary for a broadcast technician ranges from $16,000 to $70,000, with a typical salary of $21,910 (rileyguide.com).

INTERNET RADIO DISADVANTAGES

            Cost. With the low monthly costs for a streaming music service, and minimal equipment costs, there are few disadvantages to an Internet radio station. Because the streaming fee is based on the number of concurrent, monthly costs may fluctuate, making it difficult to budget funds.

            Infrastructure. Again, there are very few disadvantages to an internet station. Like the LPFM option, a large studio is unnecessary. Since very little equipment is needed, the Internet station could easily be run from a single classroom or janitor’s closet.

            Personnel. The only personnel necessary are DJs. Broadcasting a university radio station still requires oversight, however, so an advisor is suggested. If a volunteer adviser cannot be found, then one will have to be hired.

CONCLUSION

            In researching the question of whether or not a campus radio station would be feasible for UTSA, several key points emerged. First, universities have a few options: an LPFM, a high power FM, and an Internet radio. Although a high power FM station would reach more San Antonio residents than an LPFM, competition among established city stations means a university station will have to work harder to gain listenership. LPFM stations are low cost compared to high power stations, but the coverage area is considerably smaller. Internet radio stations combine low cost and wide coverage area, making this type of station a front-runner.

            Although each station option has its own set of pros and cons, some advantages and disadvantages apply to all three. Each option has revenue-producing potential that should sustain the station. Each option also has the benefit of using student volunteers to lend a signature voice representing UTSA. The disadvantages include hiring UTSA advisors and obtaining space to house the studio.

            Although the Internet station has more pros than cons, one disadvantage fell outside the original criteria. Although the LPFM and high power FM stations can be picked up by any radio within the listening area, regardless if that radio is in the car, at home, or at work, Internet radio can only be picked up wherever an Internet connection can be found. However, with the rise in number of laptops, tablets, and smart phones with Internet access, the listening area may not be as restricted as previously thought.

            I recommend that UTSA forego a terrestrial station in favor of an Internet station. With low start-up costs, customized monthly service plans, small staffer, and great potential for reaching listeners in and beyond San Antonio, the station will still achieve the goal of “enhancing the quality of life through community engagement.”

REFERENCES

Expenses to expect. (2013) Prometheus Radio Project. Retrieved from             http://www.prometheusradio.org/startup_costs.

Federal Communications Commission. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.fcc.gov/

            encyclopedia/low-power-fm-broadcast-radio-stations-lpfm.

Morton, Fred. (2013). Equipment costs. LPFM.COM. Retrieved from http://www.lpfm.

            com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=47&Itemid=54.

Broadcast technicians. (2013). Riley Guide. Retrieved from http://www.rileyguide.

            com/careers/broadcast-engineers.shtml.

Brueski, Tony. (2009, June). How much does radio advertising cost? Local Marketing       Ideas. Retrieved from http://localmarketingideas.com/how-much-does-radio- advertising-cost/.

Radio station construction costs. (2011, January). National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Retrieved from http://www.ntia.doc.gov/legacy/otiahome/

            ptfp/application/equipcost_Radio.html.

What equipment do I require to stream? (2013, July). VOSCAST. Retrieved from

            http://kb.voscast.com/index.php?sid=234658&lang=en&action=artikel&cat=3&id =7&artlang=en.

 

 

Contact Me Today!

Paul McIntier
219 Hendelson Ln
Hutto, TX  78634


Phone: 214-695-2847 214-695-2847

E-mail: paulmcintier@gmail.com