Long live community radio: Uptown Bill’s granted low-power FM radio license by FCC

Uptown Bill's director Tom Gilsenan
Uptown Bill’s director Tom Gilsenan says he’s excited about the endeavor. — photo by Adam Burke

Thanks to a campaign spearheaded by Iowa City Community Radio (ICCR), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has granted a low-power FM radio license to the Extend the Dream Foundation, which oversees Uptown Bill’s Coffee House and related endeavors at 730 S Dubuque St. in Iowa City.

The group has until November to launch the 1000-watt station, which will cover a five-mile broadcast radius.

ICCR member Holly Hart says the next step for the group involves gathering volunteers, raising awareness and possibly finding grants. Hart has been a member of ICCR since it began over a year ago and has a long history as a radio producer in Iowa, where she worked for both KSUI and WSUI.

Low-power FM radio stations are required to be non-profit and maintain non-commercial programming. As such, the station may have underwriters to serve as sponsors, and is currently organizing a fundraising campaign based on discussions held during a meeting this past Sunday.

The group says it was inspired by the late Brett Gordon, a community activist who had a dream of a radio station for non-profit groups in Iowa City, centered around the Old Brick Church and Community Center on the corner of Market and Clinton Streets.

Indeed, Gordon’s dream may become a reality as the new Iowa City radio station looks to place its transmitter at the historic church. Hart says ICCR is waiting to hear back from Verizon about the technical requirements of using Old Brick as a transmitter tower, but if they don’t receive permission, the group may build their own tower elsewhere.

As far as how they snagged the license, Uptown Bill’s Director Tom Gilsenan says the group was ready and waiting.

“About a year ago, it became clear that the FCC was going to offer some licenses,” said Gilsenan. And though the FCC doesn’t follow a regular schedule when granting licenses, ICCR was prepared and had an application ready to go.

Gilsenan says he’s excited to be involved with the project, which will serve Iowa City, University Heights, Coralville and reach parts of North Liberty.

Uptown Bill’s landlord is Iowa City’s Public Access Television, which has offered studio space for local radio productions.

Hart says the group is currently discussing the station’s potential programming, which may include some music but will focus on talk about local issues.

The low power station will include a strong web presence for listeners, according to organizers. The station has not received any call letters at this time, but will broadcast on 105.3 FM on the local radio dial.

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To find out more or get in touch with Iowa City Community Radio, contact Holly Hart at

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