KEZL-FM  Listener Supported Radio for the Republican River Valley<

What is Public Radio?

The Mandate of Public Radio

Public broadcasting is defined by the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 which established the Corporation for Pubic Broadcast and subsequent amendments. However, congress first set aside frequencies for nonprofit, noncommercial radio broadcasting in 1938. Public radio differs from commercial radio in several ways: public radio is nonprofit; public radio produces and distributes primarily educational, cultural and informational programs; and public radio may accept gifts, grants, donations and contributions for the production, acquisition and promotion of those programs.

Thus public radio is able to produce programs in isolation from the demands of the commercial marketplace. This means being able to play music heard no place else, and ability to find its own niche in serving and entertaining the public.

The FM radio band from 88.1 to 91.9Mhz is reserved 100% for nonprofit noncommercial broadcasting activities. 20 frequencies out of 100 on the FM Band are reserved for just this type of activity. It goes without saying there are a lot of people interested in broadcasting as a nonprofit so that should preclude any doubts as to why someone would want to do this.

Who Would Build Something Where No Profit Can Be Made?

There are over 1.5 MILLION non profit corporations in the USA. As of a recent count there are 3,989 Non Profit radio stations in the USA. NonProfit corporations are everywhere you look. A nonprofit corporation is an organization formed to serve the public good, such as for charitable, religious, educational or other public service reasons.

There are pros of operating a nonprofit and cons, like anything else.


  • No Federal or State Taxes on income earned by the Nonprofit
  • Nonprofits may receive donations that are tax exempt for the donor
  • Nonprofits may apply for and receive grants towards their cause
  • Board members are exempt from personal liability for corporate debts- the same as for for-profit corporations
  • No real estate taxes is assessed to nonprofit corporations


  • Members of the board cannot receive any payment for their service; they must be volunteers.
  • If the nonprofit shuts down or closes, its assets must be given to another nonprofit rather than being distributed amongst its board

    Essentially a nonprofit corporation is created and managed like a for-profit corporation except that instead of dividing the year end profits among shareholders the money is reinvested back into its own operation to serve more people.

    Why a Nonprofit Radio Station, Then?

    In November, 2021, the FCC opened a rare filing window, possibly the last ever, for applications for new nonprofit non-commercial FM radio stations. The FCC received 1,282 applications during this period.

    Many of these applications were mutually exclusive, meaning they could not all be granted as there were several applicants for the few remaining frequencies available in a given location. There were MANY applicants mutually exclusive with our filing in the McCook area. Negotiations had to commence and before it was all over there were 3 nonprofit radio station construction permits granted in McCook. Originally we applied for three frequencies in the SW Nebraska areas and ended up with one. We negotiated for and the FCC agreed and granted us the very best frequency of the lot, the one that has growing room - the one with the capability of the most superior facilities of the 3 granted. Up to 100,000 watts are possible on 89.7Mhz The other stations granted in this area are limited to 500 watts (religious) and 11,000 watts (Nebraska Public Media) with no room for improvement

    We are taking this in steps so that the station can grow organically from the ground up into bigger and better things while keeping initial operating costs low. The state funded Nebraska Public Media (NPR) received one of these licenses and the other went to a religious organization. Neither of these two have begun broadcasting yet in the McCook area. There are virtually no additional channels left for radio broadcasting in the SW Nebraska area after these latest grants. If an organization wants to have a radio station they have to take what they can get. If only nonprofit noncommercial frequencies are available then that is what we have to work with, and believe us we are only too happy to do so.

    Almost all non profit stations are operated by religious operators (~42%) or universities, colleges and schools. 99.9% of these stations have no local presence and just re-broadcast satellite programming. Theses stations perform absolutely no local community service. In our opinion they are a waste of radio space that should be used by local people to do local things. I.E. Local congregations broadcasting locally, or local schools or other nonprofits operating radio stations.

    During these rare filing windows, (this one the first in over 10 years) some of these types of applicants with bottomless pockets apply for every available frequency nationwide. This time the FCC put a cap of 10 on the number of frequencies nationwide that any one entity could apply for which helped us to get a frequency.

    Our feeling is there are plenty of religious broadcasters of every pursuasion on the FM Band with both commercial and nonprofit licenses so we set forth to cut some new cloth and try something different. Our thought is also that no one applied for any of these frequencies in southwest Nebraska all these years so why the sudden emergency to tie up all the frequencies? Nebraska Public Media was mandated by the state to build out their stations in 1961. The McCook area was always the underpriviledged step child in Nebraska when it came to public radio and television and this is why so many are unfamilliar with the concept. In larger cities these types of stations have been around for decades.

    Our thought also is that if we build it they (listeners and supporters) will come. When we first started talking about this project, the plan fell on deaf ears everywhere. Eyes glazed over during discussions. The idea just didn't seem to take anywhere it was presented, all due to unfamiliarity with the concept. So we built it. Phase I is complete- Its on the air. Now it is up to the public to embrace the idea of having a local public radio station, ran by volunteers, that could easily become the complete and total hub for all things local. Once incoming revenue supports it we will build out radio studios from which we can broadcast and produce all kinds of local programming featuring local talent.

    Or, in the complete lack of enthusiasm and participation we can turn it over to be another religious channel. Which will it be? Once this opportunity is gone it is gone forever that is a certainty.

    As a nonprofit corporation, all grants, donations, and underwriting revenue must stay in the station and be re-invested in upgrades to equipment, signal, tower and the like.

    There are no "owners" of a nonprofit corporation. Nonprofit corporations have a board of directors responsible for adminstering the corporate bylaws and mission.

    Part of our mandate and bylaws is to promote music forms that are becoming lost to the ages and to promote live performances of local persons.

    Why Do This If No Profit Can Be Made?

    Believe it or not there is still extant an old fashioned idea of doing things for the greater good. Everything isn't about money. People are doing radio projects like this all over the world so the idea can't be all bad. It is done with the idea of the greater good benefitting from the nonprofit's purpose. When you write a check to a nonprofit why do you do it? You do it to support the cause of the nonprofit, of course. Certainly not for the tax deduction, perish the thought. A love of radio, beautiful music and locals getting the chance to be broadcasters or performing on live radio can bring some great things into being. Commercial stations have become too ubiquitous, all the same music, all the same programs. Only nonprofit stations can go out on a limb and do something different, new, and fun to participate in. What could be more fun than DJing on a radio station or singing on the radio?

    Private individuals have put up the cash, enormous sums in huge piles to purchase the necessary equipment and get the station going with the knowlege that ever receiving any return on investment will not be happening. The board of directors of Theatre Organ Preservation of Nebraska, the licensee, cannot benefit in any way nor can any related parties. EVER.

    The Nebraska State Attorney General is tasked with keeping an eye on nonprofit corporations to make sure nothing happens outside these regulations. They watch these things very closely.

    The thought of the persons putting up the capital to build the station is based upon their love of radio broadcasting, theatre organ and other old style mostly lost to the ages music. If something great can come from any of this then that is a good enough reason to do this project.

    This is one last chance to do this in the SW Nebraska area. It is hoped that the community will take advantage of the possibilities then take the station and run with it molding it into whatever it becomes. We have to start somewhere, so here we are. Where are we going?

    Phase I, II and III

    Phase I (Complete)

    Phase I of the building of the radio station is complete in that the station signed on the air on September 8, 2022 at 5:45 PM after receving its operating license from the FCC. Equipment was sourced, purchased and installed by interested parties. This part is complete.

    Phase II

    Phase II of building the radio station will consist of finding a suitable studio that is easily accessible by the station volunteers. This will be accomplished once a set monthly revenue goal is reached for the station. This will include underwriting revenue, grants and donations from the public at large. Equipment is already purchased and on hand to build out the studios. Only a suitable, properly priced or donated (Tax Deductable) studio location of 1,500 to 2,200 Sq Ft is needed. At this point the station will begin to lose its 'automated' sound and volunteers will staff the radio station around the clock whenever possible. This will bring the station to "life".

    At the same time the station will commence to producing the local programming envisioned by the founders. A host of ideas are in play for this, including local musical programs, game shows, and locally produced materials including a soap opera radio serial broadcast and a late night "Nighty Night" program of local music and poetry.

    Phase III

    Phase III will involve increasing transmitter power and coverage area of the station by 5x to the maximum our current antenna and transmission lines can handle. Equipment is already on hand to accomplish this, but the mega power bill that goes with operation like that we are not ready for at all. There is still room to grow up to 100,000 Watts maximum but that's a future project. Phase III must be accomplished within 3 years of receiving the authorization from the FCC to increase power.

    Nearly $100,000 has been outlayed by interested parties to get the station on the air and purchase and make ready equipment for a studio. Equipment is already on hand to complete Phase III increasing transmitter power as well. However the electric bill will go from $400 a month to an estimate $2200 a month when power is increased. This can only happen with community support. It is now time for the southwest Nebraska community to support the station plans and get on board with funding the day to day operations of the station and subsequent growth.