Starting Up a New Campus or Community Radio Station

Updated: July 2023

Frequently Asked Questions


Why Campus or Community Radio?

The Campus and Community Radio sector plays a vital role in bringing marginalized voices to the airwaves, and highlighting Canadian artists in your locality. See the CRTC Policy Here

Mandate for community stations

15. Community radio guarantees local broadcasting service through community ownership, which means that community stations cannot be privately purchased by a for-profit organization. Community radio:
•permits and facilitates communication among members of the community by fostering diversity in the broadcasting of opinions, spoken word content and musical programming;
•participates in the stimulation of socio-economic endeavours and in the cultural enrichment of communities; and
• reflects the diversity of the communities served. Local programming is produced, in part, by volunteers.

Mandate for campus stations

16. The Commission emphasizes the importance of student involvement in campus community stations as well as the relationships that these stations should maintain with the post-secondary institutions with which they are associated.

17. Campus radio shares the entirety of the mandate of community radio. However, campus radio distinguishes itself as follows:
•local programming is produced in part by volunteers from the student body as well as the broader community;
•the board of directors includes campus representatives, including a balanced representation from the student body and representation from the administration of the post secondary institution, station volunteers and the community at large; and
•there is access to funding through student levies.

Is Campus or Community Radio the right fit for you?

What are the other options?

Type B Native Broadcast: This undertaking is characterized by its ownership, programming and target audience. It is owned and controlled by a non-profit organization whose structure provides for board membership by the native population of the region served. Its programming can be in any native Canadian language or in either or both of the two official languages, but should be specifically oriented to the native population and reflect the interests and needs specific to the native audience it is licensed to serve. It has a distinct role in fostering the development of Aboriginal cultures and, where possible, the preservation of ancestral languages. (Native Broadcasting Policy – Public Notice 1990-89 dated 20 September 1990)

Religious License: The licensee must broadcast programming consisting solely of religious services, with the exception of programs or program segments it produces for the purpose of ensuring balance on matters of public concern. Such programs or program segments must also adhere to guidelines (I) to (iv) contained in section III.B.2a) of Public Notice CRTC 1993-78. The licensee shall not broadcast advertising material.

Developmental License: If a developmental station licensee wishes to pursue its operations as a community or campus station after the end of its five-year developmental station licence term, it must apply for a new community or campus radio licence at least nine (9) months prior to the end of its licence term as a developmental station. Developmental station licensees will be required to cease operating at the end of their licence term.

Developmental community or campus radio licences will only be granted to stations having a transmitter power of 5 watts or less (AM) or an effective radiated power (ERP) of 5 watts or less (FM).

Except where the Commission has provided otherwise in a condition of licence, developmental station licensees must comply with the requirements set out in Regulator Policy 2010-499, as well as with the regulatory requirements outlined in the Radio Regulations, 1986 (the regulations), as amended from time to time.

Licensed developmental community or campus stations will be subject to fundamental requirements such as Canadian ownership as set out in the Direction to the CRTC (Ineligibility of non-Canadians, SOR/97-486 as amended by SOR/98-1268) and technical certification by the Department of Industry, and expected to conform to those portions of the community or campus radio policy governing the role of community or campus stations.

Ethnic Stations: Similar to commercial radio, following Ethnic Broadcasting Policy, Public Notice CRTC 1999-117, 16 July 1999 (Public Notice 1997-117) and Public Notice CRTC 2000-92, 30 June 2000, ethnic programming means programming provided in any language, that is specifically directed to any culturally or racially distinct group other than one that is Aboriginal Canadian or from France or the British Isles.  Ethnic programming may be in English, French, a third-language or a combination of languages.  Third-language programming means ethnic programming in languages other than French, English or Indigenous Canadians.

Other types: There are also other station types including commercial (for profit) and informational.  The CRTC website has more information.

What about Francophone C/C Radio?

There are two Associations that are very similar and the NCRA works closely with. L’ARCQ which is an association of Francophone stations in Quebec, and ARC du Canada which are Francophone licensed stations outside of Quebec. 

What is the NCRA/ANREC?

The National Campus and Community Radio Association/L’Association nationale des radios étudiantes et communautaires (“NCRA/ANREC”) is a not-for-profit national association working to recognize, support, and encourage volunteer-based, non-profit, public-access campus, community and Indigenous radio broadcasters in Canada. We provide advice and advocacy for individual campus and community (“c/c”) stations, and conduct lobbying and policy development initiatives with a view to advancing the role and increasing the effectiveness of our sector. Our goals are to ensure stability and support for individual stations, and to promote the long-term growth and effectiveness of the sector.

The NCRA/ANREC currently (April 2023) has 125 member stations. Most of our members are located in English-speaking communities, and broadcast predominantly in English, but serve a diverse range of cultural, social and linguistic communities. We have several Native B and French-language or bilingual-licensed members, although most French-language c/c stations are members of either of the French community radio associations: l’Alliance des radios communautaires du Canada (“ARCC”) and l’Association des radiodiffuseurs communautaires du Québec (“ARCQ”).

Of our 125 members, approximately one-third are based on a campus, with two-thirds not based on campus. Some members are still in development, others are broadcasting online only and do not seek a Broadcasting License. Licensed stations in our sector vary widely: some are in tiny rural communities with no staff, a small group of volunteers, and budgets of less than $5,000; some are medium-sized with a few staff and budgets in the range of $150,000 to $350,000; and a few are in large urban areas with upwards of a dozen staff, 200 volunteers, and an annual budget of more than $500,000.

The mission is:
● To advance campus, community and Indigenous radio in Canada, through advocacy, promotion,
and education.

The vision is:
● To strengthen Canadian communities, amplify diverse voices and empower people to share their

The values are:
● Equity, Diversity & Inclusion – Creating space for under-represented groups; Proactively seeking
out meaningful contributions from diverse voices; Ensuring access and support for all.
● Community – Collective groups of peoples and stations brought together by common interests;
Culture of service, volunteer contributions, and grassroots activities.
● Collaboration – Stronger together; Openness to working with others and seeking
mutually-beneficial opportunities; Networking and sharing between members.

How do you become a member of the NCRA/ANREC?

In order to become a Campus or Community radio station, and in order to become a member of the NCRA/ANREC you will need to be a registered not for profit organization, either registered with your province, or at the federal level. The Canadian Revenue Agency does not issue Campus and Community Radio charity status.

The NCRA/ANREC Staff will acknowledge when you have submitted the form and let you know when our next monthly board meeting happens, which is where our board reviews the membership applications and approves members.  If the information is complete, you will find out within a day or two of that meeting.  If there are issues, staff will contact you to discuss them, and we can try again next month. 

Note that you MUST be incorporated as a not-for-profit organization. We require a copy of your bylaws and may ask for proof of incorporation. We can’t help you with incorporating, but there is much more information here based on your province.

When you are approved, we will set up a time to onboard your station.  Note that approval means you agree to our Code of Conduct.

What does the CRTC say about Developmental License?

In Regulatory Policy 2010-499, the Commission announced that it would issue five-year licences for developmental campus or community radio stations.

If a developmental station licensee wishes to pursue its operations as a community or campus station after the end of its five-year developmental station licence term, it must apply for a new community or campus radio licence at least nine (9) months prior to the end of its licence term as a developmental station. Developmental station licensees will be required to cease operating at the end of their licence term.

Developmental community or campus radio licences will only be granted to stations having a transmitter power of 5 watts or less (AM) or an effective radiated power (ERP) of 5 watts or less (FM).

The exception to getting a developmental license may be in areas where there is little competition for frequency, and the group  is highly prepared with a more detailed application. Our Regulatory Director may be able to assist regarding the decision between applying for a Development License, or a full Community/Campus License.

A Technical Brief: Where do you put a transmitter?

It will be necessary for the application for a developmental license to also include a technical brief to be submitted to Industry Canada. Have you looked into this and prepared this documentation prior to filing your application?

In order to complete the Technical Brief, an engineer will be required to ensure that all of the necessary details are included. The NCRA, may be able to assist in locating a qualified engineer for this purpose. Do you need someone for your technical Brief? You can reach out to the Canadian Association of Broadcast Consultants

In order to be fully licensed as a radio station, you need a license for the content from the CRTC, and a license for the spectrum space from Industry Canada. For more information about their spectrum licensing See Here

You can get information on the Spectrum space available at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada Here

We have a handy doc on Transmitters Here

Also, Here are the list of frequencies that are available, See Here

From there, you would look to apply for a CRTC License, specifically a C/C CRTC license (114 Form).

Programming: Languages, hours, volunteers

Do you know how many hours you are broadcasting for? Are you aware of the regulatory requirements for that broadcast, for example, your Canadian Content, or the spoken word requirement? Do you include the broadcast of local and regional news and information; the broadcast and promotion of local cultural and artistic expression; the promotion of Canadian emerging talent with an emphasis on local musical and spoken word talent; and the broadcast of local and regional content related to social, economic and community issues?

How engaged are you with your community? Permits and facilitates communication among members of the community by fostering diversity in the broadcasting of opinions, spoken word content and musical programming; participates in the stimulation of socio-economic endeavours and in the cultural enrichment of communities; and reflects the diversity of the communities served. Local programming is produced, in part, by volunteers. The NCRA also has the Program Exchange which can help fill out Canadian programming requirements, but is unlikely to contribute towards the minimum spoken word requirement. 

We would like to also point you to a great resource out of the UK called the Community Radio ToolKit. It is very specific to the UK, however, a number of the tools can be very useful:

Community Support

Do you have letters of support from your community? An organization who represent the diverse communities which you hope to provide programming for? Or if you are an internet, or online station do you have listeners who can speak to the need to having your station on FM? Do you have the support of your local council or other civil society organizations? The NCRA in some cases may also be able to write a letter of support for stations seeking a license. 

Good Governance & Board of Directors

Do you have a board of directors already in place? Does your board comply with the Canadian citizenship requirements? Do you work well as a team? Most new radio stations have an administrative board which does a lot of work themselves. Other boards are governance boards which focus on strategy and are less involved with the direct management of the station. 

Are you planning on hiring someone to run the station? Do you have policies, and procedures in place, and have you created a clear division of authority and appeals process? The NCRA does have a Policy Exchange which may be a good starting point. 

What Timeline are you expecting?

The licensing process within the CRTC can take anywhere between 8 months to 18 months depending on if they open up a competitive process. This does not include the time it takes to gather the information required for the form submission. The timeline for creating a physical station and installing a tower etc can be over several years. There is another consideration of applying to Industry Canada for a frequency and broadcast certification. Available frequencies are scarce in some major urban areas. Becoming a not-for Profit organization can take anywhere between 4 to 8 weeks. 

What technical components go into a radio station?

The TAC (Technical Advisory Committee) mind-mapped the technical requirements to run a station (this is a standard idea, some may be missing, others may be skipped based on individual station needs).  Check out the map here

What else can the NCRA/ANREC do for you?

● The Regulatory Survival Guide, the Copyright Handbook, Board of Directors and new online training resource and wiki information regarding c/c radio regulations (over 400  unique sources).  

● The continued benefits of 1.9% savings from SOCAN fee for Broadcasting Licenses.  We continue to liaise with SOCAN/CMRRA/CSI to represent the needs of our sector including automation of this system.  

● Private consultation on grant applications (for example CRFC grant design and support). 

● The Community Radio Awards in Broadcast and Online continue to be a significant benefit, which has helped earn stations granting funds, recognition and prestige.  

● Health and Station Insurance partners, we’ve been informed that stations save on average $200+ by switching to our national partners. We continue to find group-buy options to help reduce operational costs for stations. Over 25 stations participate. 

● Our email lists continue to be a significant resource for stations as they crowd-source solutions to issues they may face.  

● Co-Founded the Community Radio Fund of Canada (CFRC), which to date has distributed more than $18 million to Campus/Community stations. The NCRA/ANREC  maintains a presence on the board of directors for the CRFC. The NCRA/ANREC also  

works on a sector-wide working group with the CRFC and the francophone stations to solicit new revenue sources for our members and the sector at large. For 2022-2023 the CRFC  now funds the Local Journalism imitative via PCH which happened because the  NCRA/ANREC lobbied for it (And saw the program grow to $2m annually for our sector).  

● The NCRA/ANREC continues to provide the resources generated from previous projects such as equity-based projects and resources like Rendez-vous De La  Francophonie, Our accessibility micro-grants and the disAbilities Handbook.  

● Our !earshot-Distro system has launched fully, and allows radio stations and their programmers to get direct access to music from all across the country, reducing the waste produced by CD distribution and increasing access at no costs to members.  It also now distributes finished programs and Public Service Announcements (PSAs)

Some successes from the past year: 

● We supported more than 35 individual stations interacting with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) with licence applications, renewals (0ver 45 this year),  amendments and other regulatory issues in 2022-2023. The NCRA/ANREC draws on nearly 50 years of regulatory experience through devoted volunteers and staff to support this important work.  

● We ran an annual successful Annual Returns campaign ensuring that stations remain in compliance with their regulatory obligations.  

● We grew the national distribution network for artists, labels and distributors to deliver over 20,000 songs directly to programmers via the !earshot Digital Distribution system.

● We completed year four of the National Strategic Learning and Development  Platform which includes online training through NorthPass, 2 rotating annual  conferences/summits, a mentorship program and more 

● We updated our member-only website with dozens of resource pages.  

● The NCRA/ANREC expanded its Wiki with over 200 entries! The Wiki has now become the central location for shared knowledge on c/c radio.  

● We funded 55 member stations $30,000 to air support announcements about bilingualism in their communities through the “Rendez-vous de le Francophonie” program offered by our partner Fondation Dialogue & Canadian Heritage. 

● We have had over $50,000 in advertising and are launching our CanAds pilot project to expand our national advertising for our members.. 

● Ongoing consultations with MPs, Senators, CRTC Commissioners & sector partners related to C11, C18 and much more with high-level consultations with Canadian Heritage in order to advocate for more funding options for c/c stations

● The Public Service Announcement Network, an initiative to bring national PSAs from  Canadian charities and non-profits to a central depository for c/c stations.  

● Ran another season of the Podcast School for members via 

Some of the things we’re working on for the coming year: 

My Community My Radio public-facing website. This will be an initiative to show and promote to the public what campus and community radio does in Canada.  

● New a-la-cart services for members and non-members● A national Foundation for charitable donations into our sector

Sounds Cooperative Handbook / Et pourquoi pas une coop?

For more information about setting up a Cooperative Radio station, please see the documents below. For information regarding setting up a station in general, refer to Chapter 4.

Get in touch with us! for more or call us at the office!

This bilingual guide was produced in the Spring of 2012 by Zoe Creighton of Kootenay Co-op Radio CJLY-FM in Nelson, BC, as part of that station’s joint project with the NCRA called “Sounds Cooperative“. Funded by the Cooperative Development Initiative, a program of the Government of Canada, it aimed to explore and build on the existing connections between co-operatives and campus and community radio stations.The project saw the creation of a handbook, with the second chapter detailing the steps involved in starting a campus or community radio station and applying for a licence.

Complete English version ••• La version française en pleine


Why Chose those call letters- (1).pdf