Non-Commercial Educational Radio – What is it and why is it important?

During our bi-annual membership drives, you hear KRTU DJs mention that 91.7 FM is a non-profit, community radio station. We often say the station “has a non-commercial educational (NCE) license.” But what does that really mean? Why is this important to the San Antonio community?

The FCC allows for two types of licenses for radio and television stations: commercial or non-commercial educational. High school, religious, public and college radio stations are most often non-commercial educational. These stations are all located between 88-92 on your FM radio.

The primary difference between commercial and NCE stations are how each operates financially. This, ultimately, impacts the entire programming of a station and how it engages the public and community.

KRTU maintains a music-first policy with the sole intention of educating the community. Education is the foundation of all KRTU programs. Jazz de Mexico, The Blues Review, Prado Presents, The Blue Note Hour, Planet Jazz, Riffs, Sweet Beats and Women in Jazz are just a few of the many programs emphasizing education on 91.7 FM. This core value is also highlighted in the work of the South Texas Jazz Project and the Jazz Break at Noon.

Most often, because NCE stations operate outside of corporatized radio formats and programming expectations, non-commercial stations can broadcast alternative, local and community-based programs not available elsewhere on the dial. This is why Trinity University students often realize their initial interest in radio at KRTU. Being provided the opportunity to discuss their favorite music in an engaging and educational way, and share that with the public, is only made available at an NCE station.

In a recently published article for, writer Brad Bynum discussed the important role of low-power FM radio stations and noted that, “the key to the future of radio is locally-oriented content.”

Non-commercial educational radio stations can provide a broadcasting platform for growth, research and discovery with an emphasis on community. KRTU 91.7 FM is a place on the dial where trusted community representatives share their knowledge and expertise about jazz and independent music. This is why it is important to support your local non-commercial educational radio stations.

Friday, May 1, 2015