With regard to new stations going on the air, 2015 represented the biggest single-year leap forward for non-commercial and community radio in U.S. history. At the end of the year 524 new low-power FM stations had been fully licensed during the year. This represents a 68% increase in the overall number of LPFM stations compared to fourth quarter of 2013, the last accounting period before the FCC began issuing new construction permits from the 2013 application window.
To the best of my knowledge there is no reliable count of the number of community radio stations in the U.S., but in 25 years of watching this sector of radio I’ve never seen a one-year jump like that. We didn’t see this kind of increase during the first LPFM licensing window that began in 2000 because the process was rolled out more slowly, region-by-region, whereas the 2013 window encompassed the entire country, and the FCC was especially prolific in issuing construction permits in 2014.
To see this in action one needs only to do a news search on the term “low-power FM” and stand agog at how many new stations sign on every week.
Even so, 2016 could very well beat out 2015 in this race. There are still about 1030 valid construction permits for stations that have yet to go on air with a full license. Plus, there are yet another 100 or so applications still waiting to be processed. Unfortunately, some percentage of these construction permits will expire without a station being built. Nevertheless, it would be surprising should more than half of them expire in the next year.
Looking back over our weekly coverage of LPFM, here are some particularly notable stories:
Believe it or not, these are just drops in the bucket of everything that happened in LPFM community radio in 2015. Be sure to read our LPFM Watch feature every Thursday, the only weekly low-power FM news coverage to be found anywhere.
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