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The CRTC says it judges applicants on the merits of their business plan, market impact and the diversity they bring to the industry. In reality, the process is both a beauty pageant and a crapshoot. "There's no gaming this thing. You just have to make your best pitch," says one industry veteran.

Here are five popular strategies.

BE A CANCON SUPERSTAR Broadcasters often gripe that the CRTC's 35% Canadian content requirements are excessive. Still, applicants routinely offer to play at least 40% Canadian music selections. So don't bother with less.

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ANTE UP FOR CANADA Part of an applicant's bid will include a cash offering for Canadian artists. However, "What's the least I can get away with?" is a losing strategy. Newcap, in its bid for 88.1 FM, offered $12 million and promises to stage concerts with emerging Canadian artists in listeners' living rooms.

DON'T EAT ANYONE'S LUNCH Preference goes to radio formats that have no presence in the market and will attract new listeners to radio. If the prospect of becoming Canada's first ethnic alternative oldies country station doesn't appeal to you, don't sweat it: Many alter the format after they win the licence.

CRY POOR A good strategy if you already have a station in the market and want to move to a better spot on the dial. Paint yourself as a victim of one of the following circumstances: A) this frequency sucks B) this signal is weak because the transmitter sucks or C) being on AM sucks.

COMMIT FOR THE LONG HAUL The CRTC has enthusiastically granted radio licences to new applicants in recent years, only to be burned when owners flip the stations for fast profit. The CRTC calls this "licence trafficking." Aim to show a good track record in broadcasting to prove you're actually planning to make a go of it.

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