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Will Catholic Radio Return to Ave Maria?

Gene Church, who operates a number of non-profit Catholic radio stations in Alabama and Florida, believes Catholic radio should be available again in the town of Ave Maria but he's looking for support from residents to make that happen.

Mr. Church's Divine Word Radio has a half-dozen stations that re-transmit EWTN Radio, which is what would be heard on the air if he is successful in getting a low-power FM station on the air in Ave Maria. Low-power FM (LPFM) stations are a special class of radio stations licensed to non-profit entities for community or educational programming. They have a limited range of between four and eight miles, which would mean it could be heard throughout Ave Maria but not far beyond the town's borders.

The opportunity has arisen because Naples resident Paul Parshall has been unable to follow through on a permit he received in January, 2014, from the Federal Communications Commission to start a low-power FM station in the Ave Maria area. Mr. Parshall created a non -profit company called Ave Maria Community Radio, Inc. to operate the station, but he could not secure space locally for a transmitter and studio, both of which are required by the FCC. He has until July of this year to either get the station on the air or forfeit the license.

Mr. Church told an informational meeting in Ave Maria last week that the costs for the station would be $75,000 over the next two years -- $25,000 to purchase the license and $50,000 in operating expenses – and he said he is looking to the community to bear those costs. He said he would need to raise $40,000 by July to get the station on the air. Ave Maria University, which recently sold its license for a commercial AM station for $2.4 million, said it would provide space on the roof of one of its buildings for a transmitter and space on campus for a studio.

The station would be managed on a day-to-day basis by Mr. Church's two children, both of whom are students entering their sophomore year at AMU. There is no local programming planned, Mr. Church said and Ave Maria Radio, Inc. would be managed by a board consisting of his two children plus one other person who he said likely would be AMU VP and General Counsel Bill Kirk.

Mr. Church said anyone interested in learning more about the project can call him at 850-777-1568. More on Divine Word Radio is at their website here

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