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Station Tally Reflects Demand for FM Spectrum

Despite slight AM decline, overall number of licensed radio stations continues to grow

The power of FM radio remains on the rise, at least judging by the number of signals.

The FCC recently tabulated that the total number of licensed radio stations in the U.S. hit a near-all-time high of 22,970 in June 2015, up about 2.6 percent from the previous summer. This count includes not only AM, FM commercial and FM educational stations, but also FM translators and boosters, as well as low-power FM stations.

As of mid-year, 590 new stations had been licensed compared to June 2014, and most of that growth is in LPFM and translators. The number of LPFMs jumped 29 percent (from 814 in 2014 to 1,149 today) as the expansion of that service continues apace. Meanwhile, there were 225 more FM translators and boosters as of mid-2015 from a year prior.

As has been the trend over the last several years, some radio classifications have declined, including a slow loss of AM stations. According to the commission, this year there are 4,698 AM stations in operation, compared to 4,721 in June 2014, a loss of 23 AM stations. The number of AMs had remained relatively steady until about five years ago, when the numbers slowly started to decline. Today there are 88 fewer AM stations than in 2010.

Although the AM station count declined, both FM commercial and FM educational stations grew slightly. This year the FM category grew in both the commercial and educational space, with commercial stations rising slightly this year to 6,666 and educational stations rising to 4,091 (from 6,622 and 4,082 a year ago, respectively).