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14,420 Radio Stations in the US

At the end of last month the FCC released its tallies for the total number of broadcast stations in the US as of Sept. 31, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2009. When you see the big number of 14,420 full-service radio stations it’s a big reminder that radio is still an enormous media presence in this country. This total represents an increase of 23 stations just from the end of September.

Here’s the breakdown for all radio types:

Full-power stations

  • AM stations – 4790
  • FM commercial stations – 6479
  • FM educational stations – 3151
    TOTAL 14,420

    FM translator and booster stations – 6155

    Low-power FM stations – 864

    Grand total: 21,439

Note that FM translators and boosters are low-power stations that may not originate their own programming. They may only retransmit the signal of a full-power station. I’m pretty sure that a very large percentage of translators are non-commercial, thought I don’t have the exact number at hand. This is because the rules for non-comm translators are much looser than for commercial ones. A non-comm translator may be located any distance away from the station it retransmits, whereas a commercial translator must be located within its mother station’s expected broadcast range.

Educational stations encompass all non-commercial stations that have NCE licenses, including college, school, religious, community and public stations. The FCC does not distinguish between them.

Even though many observers have tuned out of radio, it’s going to be a long time before 21,439 broadcast stations are going to be abandoned and forgotten.

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