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SYNDICATION 101... Non-Commercial Stations

While it's true that most syndication take place at commercial stations, there still is a place in the non-comm world for syndication of the right shows. Some of these shows can go on both comm and noncomm, while other shows should stick to just the non's. And we are speaking here of traditional broadcast stations... not web stations. Here are the areas to look at, to determine whether comm or noncomm is best for you:

COLLEGE/COMMUNITY: Noncomms are divided into stations which receive most of their funding from either a college, or the community. College stations are made up of mostly one-hour shows done by unpaid kids as part of their communications classes. There is every style of music imaginable, along with some talk, and they all fluctuate every few months.

Community stations are made up of shows done by volunteers in the local area. These folks are much older than the college students, and they play much softer styles of music, and get more into talk issues.

SELLING: The biggest controlling factor in your choice of stations is whether or not you have hard-selling commercials in your show. If you do, the FCC will not allow it on noncomm's. In the same spirit, if your show is infomercial-ish, then it still won't make it. But if your show if informative, with no commercials (or if the commercials are the soft-sell type,) then it can work. Key words to use in your commercials are "underwritten by", "supported by", and "brought to you by". Don't use "sponsored"; even though it is legal, radio people don't view it positively the way TV people do.

SHOW TOPIC: With noncomms, you are going after an audience of people who are either upscale or eclectic. The NPR, jazz, and (especially) classical stations reach the highest income demographic of all radio stations. The college stations reach people who are the most cutting-edge, but much lower income.

DELIVERY: Your show must be sent on CD. Noncomms do not (for the most part) have satellite, and they don't have a dedicated person/machine that can deal with sound files.

REACH: Noncomms reach a very limited number of people... usually only one percent of the number of people that a commercial station in the same market reaches. Note that summer has less effect on college radio listenership than you might think; when kids leave their college town and go home, they don't all-of-a-sudden seek out watered-down commercial stations... they instead simply find the coolest college station there. So there is more of a "shift" of college listeners than there is a reduction. There are about 1,000 college stations (along with 1,000 community stations) in the U.S.; only about 200 of these college station close for summer. This actually does you a favor, since the ones that stay on are the larger ones that cover most of the city.

DIFFICULTY: Noncomms, compared to comms, are easier to get clearance on. Not easy, just easier. For example, if it took one year to clear a decent sized commercial station in Austin, a noncomm in that market might have only taken you three months.

CONTRACTS: These are a hidden difficulty with noncomms. It's difficult to enforce a contract on a non-commercial entity, since there is little money behind it. It's difficult enough with commercial stations, but with noncomms (where the PDs are in constant change), just finding the proper person to pin responsibility on can be very tough. Not to mention that college kids might be apprehensive about signing a contract in the first place. Thus, the only purpose of a signed paper is to achieve some level of mental commitment from the person at the station.

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