In June 1990, The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) created a program called COMTRAIN which provides broadcast management training for new minority broadcast owners of full-service commercial radio and television stations in the United States. Minorities with construction permits from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and minorities who have owned a commercial radio or television station for three years or less are eligible to receive broadcast management training and consultant services via this program. ComTrain is administered by NTIA's Minority Telecommunications Development Program and funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency (MTDP).
All eligible minority broadcasters interested in participating in ComTrain must submit a letter of application to MTDP which includes a copy of the original FCC application with all ownership amendments, a copy of the construction permit or other FCC authorization, three sets of possible training dates, the desired numbers of training days, and a résumé or biography. Applicants may include additional information about their station and broadcast experience.
MTDP reviews all applications to ensure that the candidates meet the eligibility criteria. Once the candidate is approved for training, MTDP uses the information contained in the application file to match the broadcast owner with the most suitable broadcast training facility.
More than 100 stations around the country provide training and consulting services. These stations are successful commercial stations that are owned by volunteer corporate sponsors of ComTrain, which include The Gannett Broadcasting Group, Caballero Spanish Media, US Radio, The Cromwell Group, Allbritton Communications, Emmis Broadcasting, Monroe County Broadcasting, Granite Broadcasting Corporation, Cox Enterprises, Curtis Media Group, Westinghouse Broadcasting, and EZ Communications.
Once the scheduling is confirmed with the general manager of the sponsoring station and the prospective trainee, MTDP sends the trainee a letter of confirmation which includes the training dates, station location, and the name and phone number of the station's general manager. MTDP also sends the trainee a packet of nine books on broadcast management and station operation.
On the assigned date, the trainee travels to the station where his training is scheduled to take place. This part of ComTrain provides minority broadcast owners with an opportunity to work with the general manager and department heads of a viable broadcast entity. The training is structured to cover areas of broadcasting that are of specific interest to the trainee. The trainees are fully responsible for all travel and lodging expenses.
Following the training, the broadcast owner is required to prepare a written evaluation of the training for his MTDP portfolio. The evaluation is designed to assess the effectiveness and long-term value of the training, and to solicit recommendations for improving the program. Graduates of ComTrain have consistently described their training as a unique and quality experience with endless benefits.
The second part of ComTrain, which is called the Volunteer Consultant Corp (VCC) offers free consultant services to trainees once their stations are on the air. The VCC is comprised of broadcasters and broadcast experts who are affiliated with a station owned by one of the twelve ComTrain corporate sponsors. This part of the program is designed to provide new owners with instruction and advice in the areas of broadcast management where the owners feel their skills are weakest. Eligible candidates interested in participating in the VCC must send a letter of application to MTDP which includes the kind of broadcast expertise needed, and three sets of dates for consultation. MTDP will forward the letter of request to a sponsoring company. The sponsor will select the consultant based on the kind of expertise requested, and the availability of station personnel with the appropriate broadcast background.
MTDP coordinates and pays for all travel and lodging expenses incurred by the consultant based on federal government per diems and travel regulations. The sponsoring company is responsible for all expenses which exceed government rates. The consultant reports to the trainee's station on an assigned date for a period of 1 - 2 days. During this time the new owner and station staff receive consultation on the areas of broadcast management specified in the owners letter of application.
The evaluations for the VCC are conducted by phone, transcribed and included as part of the trainee's portfolio.
After a new minority broadcast owner has completed both parts of the program, MTDP continues to track their progress and provides them with assistance whenever possible.