Community broadcasters first met as a group in the summer of 1973 in Seattle, Washington.Only a half-dozen community licensed stations were on the air at that time. Representatives from those stations, as well as representatives of another dozen groups interested in building
stations, were present. In 1975, the National Alternative Radio Konvention (NARK) convened in Madison, Wisconsin. Representatives of some 40 community broadcast organizations gathered to discuss the future of community radio. The group agreed on the need for a national
organization to represent community broadcasters and provide a voice for non-commercial radio in national policy. The National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB) was then founded in 1978.
NFCB's initial mission was to develop training manuals for stations, to help stations obtain Federal Communication Commission licenses, to promote the participation of minorities and women at all levels of public broadcasting, and to establish the NFCB Program Service, an effort to establish connections among community radio stations across the country and distribute community radio programs through a national cooperative of producers and stations. NFCB's national headquarters opened in Washington, D.C.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, community radio expanded rapidly. NFCB grew along with community radio, soon reaching a membership of 75 stations and broadcasting groups. The Public Radio Legal Handbook and Audiocraft, an audio production training manual, were published in the late 1970s. NFCB was instrumental in bringing people of color into community radio in
the early 1980s, organizing the first Minority Producers Conference in 1982. NFCB also assisted in the development of national policies to enhance local community stations by helping to make it possible for non-National Public Radio stations to receive grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
During the 1980s, NFCB experienced several changes in administration. These changes came as NFCB and many of its member stations were struggling with internal conflicts and financial crises. NFCB survived this period, though staff was reduced from nine full-time employees to
four. Administration of the Program Service was transferred to the Pacifica Radio Archives around 1986.
An outside consultant was hired in the fall of 1986 to evaluate NFCB's situation. The consultant described NFCB's future as "in doubt." The period between 1987 and 1990 was a time of reorganization and redefinition for the organization. Due to financial problems, NFCB operated with as few as two staff members at times. In 1987, the NFCB Steering Committee was eliminated and the NFCB Board of Directors was formed.
By 1991, NFCB's financial and operational recovery was well underway. The organization's membership reached 100 in March of 1994, and has continued to grow. NFCB developed the Healthy Station Project, which was designed to support and create successful local stations. In 1995, the national headquarters of NFCB was relocated from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco, California, where the organization combined operations with Western Public Radio.
NFCB encourages community media to respond to changes in technology and culture, raising community service and inclusion as core values. As streaming, podcasting and online journalism rose to prominence in the 2000s, NFCB helped organizations understand new tools. NFCB also
convened the first Native, Rural, African American, Low Power FM, and Latino Radio Summits. The Annual Community Media Conference focuses on operating, funding and programming locally-based community media, and draws an average of 300 participants each year. NFCB offers three annual awards, Volunteer of the Year, recognizing community radio volunteers; the Golden Torchlight, recognizing local impact; and the Michael Bader award, recognizing lifetime achievement.
NFCB, now based in Denver, Colorado, continues to represent the views of its members in such national arenas as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the FCC, and the United States Congress.