published interesting data about low-power FM radio. The numbers came within a
report to Congress about the economic impact
of LPFMs on
full-service commercial stations.
brief, the study found no meaningful impact, a conclusion with which I must
agree. But I also find it interesting to look at the charts within the report, the
most comprehensive I’ve seen regarding LPFM as it exists in the marketplace.
For example, the table here lists the top 10 LPFM stations in the
Arbitron ratings using three types of metrics. Perusing, we find that even the
top-drawing LPFM doesn’t have a huge number of listeners — 2,900 Average
Quarter Hour Persons — and this was an outlier. The third-highest station had
But LPFM listeners apparently stick
with their stations. Note the Time Spent Listening market rankings at lower
right. Five LPFMs achieved the highest
TSL in their markets, and 11 were among the top five, according to the study.
(The highest TSL for an LPFM station was 2,115 minutes, or about 35 hours, per
“The top-rated LPFM stations,” the FCC found, “tend to have high TSL and
low cume person values, relative to full-service stations. These measures
suggest that the popular LPFM stations tend to attract a small but loyal fan
base who tune in for long periods and/or switch stations less often than the
average full-service station listener.” This makes sense to me, having started my
radio career at a small college station that aired a block format and had relatively
few listeners but engendered a high level of passion in them. To
me, LPFMs capture a facet of what radio can be all about, or should be all about.
The FCC study in general found that
LPFMs serve primarily small and rural markets and have geographic and
population reaches “many magnitudes smaller” than those of full-service
commercial FMs; that their ratings, if any, are negligible; and that audiences are
far smaller than those of full-service stations in their markets.
You may feel differently. Comment to me
This discussion comes as industry anticipates another flurry
of new LPFMs thanks to congressional action easing interference protections. If
you’re interested in LPFM and the impact of more low-power stations, read the
FCC report. It summarizes the history of the service and the concerns of other
observers, including the NAB, which argues that niche-formatted stations,
particularly in urban areas, are likely to be hurt by an expansion of LPFM. NAB
submitted a study concluding that full-service stations with niche formats
generally have smaller potential audiences and low revenues, which make them
especially vulnerable if they experience a decline in listenership.
Read the FCC report at radioworld.com/LPFM-impact-study.