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Broadcast Radio is Growing in the U.S., Especially Non-Commercial FM

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Last week the FCC released a quarterly report on the number of currently licensed broadcast stations. Radio Survivor puts the numbers in long-term perspective to show that this year's growth in U.S. radio stations is part of a 20 year trend. While AM stations slipped, FM grew especially in the educational radio sector that includes college, community and public radio. Though individual stations face plenty of challenges, terrestrial radio overall is not the wasteland one might imagine.

It's easy to assume that terrestrial radio is one of those soon to be discarded relics of the pre-internet world, yet radio “remains a dominant source of streaming music and music discovery."

The FCC's latest quarterly licensed radio station report shows:

AM Stations - 4727

FM Commercial - 6612

FM Educational - 4019

Total - 15,358

As Radio Survivor's Jennifer Waits explains, this total represents 162 more stations than last year at this time:

“FM educational radio stations (college radio, high school radio, public radio, community radio, and religious broadcasters) increased the most, with 159 more stations at the end of December, 2013 than at the end of December, 2012. In that same one-year period, the number of commercial FM radio stations increased by 14."

As she's previously noted, this growth is part of a 20+ year trend.

With AM stations decreasing by 11 since last year, it seems like the more mainstream outlets are shrinking while the more indie-friendly stations are on the rise.

Obviously not all educational FM programming focuses on music but growth in this sector at least suggests the potential for more stations receptive to indie musicians.


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