When people ask you how many radio stations there are in the United States, you can start saying “around 14,000.”
Of course it depends on exactly how you count; but for some time, the answer generally was “well north of than 13,000.” Yet the number of licensed radio stations has continued to creep up. It grew to 13,977 as of Dec. 31, 2007; that compares to 13,837 stations at the end of the year before.
Breaking it down, there are 4,776 AMs, 6,309 FMs and 2,892 educational FMs, which the FCC lists separately.
But these figures do not include low-power FMs; there were 831 of those, the FCC reports. It also doesn’t include 5,900 or so translators and boosters.
We did some quick figuring, and by RW’s count there are 22 more AMs in the United States than one year ago, 43 more FMs and 75 more FM educationals. There are 60 more LPFMs.
More interestingly, how do these latest figures compare to 10 years ago? The numbers tell a 10-year story: no growth in AM signals, but boom times for FM educationals, translators and boosters.
Total stations in 1997 would have been described as “above 12,000.” As of December of that year, according to FCC statistics we compared, there were 4,762 AMs — virtually no net change in AM station count from today (and down from 4,804 at the end of 2002; AMs were just shy of 5,000 in 1990).
There were about 5,540 FMs 10 years ago, so that category is up about 14% in the decade since; and there were only about 1,900 FM educationals, a number that grew 50% in the subsequent decade.
Notably, there were about 2,880 FM translators and boosters 10 years ago. Now there are 5,900. That class grew by 105% in the intervening years.