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FM Band Just Keeps Getting More Crowded

There are 26% more FM licensees of all types compared to 10 years ago

If you need proof that the FM band in the United States has gotten more crowded, look no farther than the latest station totals report from the Federal Communications Commission.

According to a comparison with historical data by Radio World, there are 4,601 more FM signals on the band than there were just 10 years ago, an increase of more than 26%. That includes an increase of 256 FM signals in the past year.

For this calculation, Radio World is using the total number of licensed FM signals — including full-power, translator, booster and LPFM stations — which, at mid-year, 2022 is now 21,858.

In the past year alone, the number of FM translators and boosters went up by more than 330 — probably almost all translators — and is now approaching 9,000, which is a big reason the 88-108 spectrum has become so busy in the past 10 to 15 years.

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Breaking the FM totals down, the number of commercial FM licenses grew by eight in the past 12 months to 6,689. The number of noncommercial educational FMs declined slightly to 4,184, but that’s still about 425 more than a decade ago, and the category will increase when the results of the recent NCE filing window begin to be felt.

LPFMs fell by 59 in the past year, to 2,034.

Over on the senior band, the total of AM licensees continues to creep down. It stands at 4,498, a drop of 35 signals this year and down more than 250 over 10 years.
Interestingly, the National Association of Broadcasters this week made note of a recent decline in the number of full-power U.S. radio stations.

In a comment about the state of competition in the communications marketplace, NAB wrote that radio was particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn, and offered as evidence that there were 180 fewer full-power commercial AM/FM stations at the end of 2021 compared to two years earlier.