I waited in the nondescript lobby of the Federal Communications Commission reading every copy of Broadcast Electronics twice. The locked door finally opened and an elderly woman in a rumpled gray suit peered over half rimmed glasses. "Paul McGowan?"
I explained how I needed a broadcasting license to operate our school radio station twice; once to a clerk and then a field engineer. It was the engineer that took the time to explain obtaining a commercial broadcasting license is a big deal. A really big deal. In fact, in the crowded Orange County and Los Angeles basin, none were available even if I could afford the attorneys, engineers, and fees. It was simply not going to happen.
I've rarely been accused of shyness, and even less of acquiescing to failure. "So, you're telling me no one can get a license? The FCC doesn't issue licenses anymore? Really?" Actually, he explained, they were there more for certifications and regulation enforcement and didn't really issue licenses, but he did offer a bone to me. "If your transmitter is less than a watt, you don't need a license." A light bulb went off and I asked to see a copy of the regulation permitting broadcasts of under a watt. The short, balding engineer, with small tufts of hair covering the tops of his ears, pulled a thick volume from amongst many and found the page he was looking for. His pudgy finger scrolled down lists of regulations until it stopped. There, consuming most of the page, was the answer to my problem. Anyone can broadcast with 500 mW of power or less without a license. I was elated.
I asked the engineer to photocopy the page and then, with a flourish of brilliance, I asked if he might sign the copy and put the FCC stamp on it; explaining my school administrators would want to know if the document was authentic. He signed the impressive paper, used a squeeze stamp imprinting the seal and logo of the FCC, then initialed the stamp. It looked very official.
Tomorrow would be a pivotal day in deciding if FJC would get a new broadcast station or not.