Urban Alternative Music Format - Phase 3: Station Applications

New applications are no longer being accepted. Check this page for updates about this initiative.


Open to CSG-qualified Radio Stations.


February 12, 2021

Grant Guidelines

In 2016, Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) support launched the development of the Urban Alternative music format for public radio. The new format was built by and for a new generation of public radio listeners; a younger, multicultural cohort that would create its own public media mission and sound. The goal was to target an audience between the ages of 18 and 44, and build an innovative service connecting urban audiences through music discovery and community engagement. Deeply grounded in research, the Urban Alternative combined music and information to meet the needs of young diverse audiences, especially millennials and Generation X. In the previous phase, CPB supported the implementation of the format by public radio stations in Houston, TX; Norfolk, VA; and Denver, CO. This request for applications will identify additional community service grant-qualified radio stations to implement the new format with assistance from CPB.

Please download the Grant Guidelines below for detailed information, including application requirements.
PDF icon Grant Guidelines158.85 KB

Questions from Potential Respondents, with CPB Answers:

FAQ Topic: 

As we navigate the pandemic, is there an expectation that we have a studio for people to access or will remote equipment satisfy the requirements of the grant?

Stations must work within applicable health and safety guidelines. CPB will consider those factors when assessing the proposals.

Are funds issued as reimbursement for expenses occurred? Or presented at the commencement of project?

Disbursement of funds will be based on the cash flow needs of the project.

Should we expect to track any existing FTEs reassigned to the new format (e.g., digital production) or pledged as in-kind support (e.g., philanthropic development staff)?

Yes. Stations will be required to track the time each staff spends working on the project using time sheets or other similar records.

Can the website URL be an extension of a stations existing URL, or is there an expectation that a newly registered URL be created?

The website URL can be an extension of a station’s existing URL. One current UA station created a sub-site for the new format that is assessable through its existing website. However, priority will be given to stations that will transform their existing websites into music discovery formats designed to appeal to the target audience.

Regarding the format continuation requirement (three years beyond grant cycle), does CPB want to see the same staffing levels, marketing budget, etc?

Based on experience with the stations funded during the prior phase, CPB believes the following staffing (as outline in the RFP) is necessary for the success of the format: A Content Director; a minimum of three On-Air Hosts with skills and knowledge to execute the format; a Community Engagement Manager; Development; and Digital staff.

How far along (in terms of talent development, brand development, marketing, underwriting, and fundraising) were the Chicago, Denver, Houston, and Norfolk UA formats at the time of the award?

The selected stations were at different stages of development when they were awarded grants. Each addressed different challenges hiring staff, working with the consultant to understanding the basics of the format, and preparing for and launching the new format. CPB anticipates that stations selected for this phase will have similar experiences.

Will carriage on an HD signal satisfy the requirements to be on an FM channel? If not, will sharing time with an existing FM channel satisfy the requirement versus being on an FM channel fulltime?

Priority will be given to stations that broadcast the format fulltime on FM channels. However, CPB will assess the impact of multiplatform distribution strategies such as full-time programming or programming blocks on the main channel, streaming, apps, and HD.

Is there a timetable for when the work with the consultant is to be completed and when grant recipients are expected to launch their service?

The format should be implemented by the second year of the grant term.

How many applicants do you anticipate?

We encourage all eligible stations to apply.

Is the salary allocation described in the RFP (100% x 2) limited to just two positions? Or could it be allocated as, say, two staff at .75 FTE and one at .50 FTE? Is there further guidance on staffing levels or examples from the stations operating under the grant?

Applicants may apportion the work as needed. However, staff must have time sheets or other similar records to evidence their time spent working on the project.

Under V. Proposal Requirements, B. Budget, the last paragraph states, "CPB will fund up to 100% of salary and benefits for up to two new station staff positions necessary to implement the music format and/or defray the cost of technical upgrades necessary to meet the station requirements listed above." Can we also include a portion of existing staff salary who will be assisting in music implementation and technical upgrades? For example, we would use our existing engineer for portions of this as well as our assistant PD who handles music scheduling for our station to set up the hardware and software we propose to use.

Your Budget Proposal must break out the hourly rate and the number of hours (or the percentage of FTE) the existing staff will dedicate to this project.

Is it acceptable to allocate funding of 300k in the first year and 200k in the second year, or does each year need to reflect 250k? Would you advise that we set a budget target of, say, $300-400k? Or is CPB willing to consider requests at the maximum amount?

Costs should be based on the needs of the project during the two-year grant term. Applicants should include a monthly or quarterly cash flow statement in their proposals that shows the anticipated timeline of spending. CPB will evaluate each proposal based the criteria outlined in the RFP.