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Radio factoid: educational broadcasting is pulling the weight when it comes to full power station growth

source: USAID

source: USAID

A look at radio licensing trends in the United States over the last five years shows an interesting pattern. While the number of commercial AM and FM full power licenses has declined or remained flat, there’s been a big expansion in educational FM stations. Lets’ review the stats in QA form.

Q. How many Federal Communications Commission licensed full power radio stations are there United States?

A. As of December 31, 2008 the FCC counted 14,253. These break down to 4786 AM stations and 9467 FM stations.

Q. How many of those FM stations were commercial versus educational?

A. 6427 were commercial. 3040 were educational (“educational,” of course, includes public radio stations).

Q. How many FM translators and boosters are there?

A. 6120.

Q. How many Low Power FM stations are there?

A. 859. There could be a lot more if the FCC made it easier to get licenses.

Q. Are these license numbers growing?

A. Yes, and no. There were 13,383 full power radio stations at the end of March 2003, so the aggregate is going up. But the number of AM stations has declined by 18 and the number of FM commercial stations has remained nearly the same (up 248 from 2003—a 4 percent increase). Meanwhile the number of FM educational stations has grown by 640—a 25 percent boost in that sector’s growth. So basically educational FM is pulling most of the weight when it comes to conventional radio license expansion. Were it not for that sectors’ strength, the total number of licenses would have increased by 230, a 1.5 increase in growth.

FCC, February 27, 2009.
, FCC, May 5, 2003

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