Number of low-power FM radio stations doubled since 2014
More than 750 new low-power FM (LPFM) community radio stations have been licensed to join the FM airwaves since 2014, according to the FCC. This has nearly doubled the total number to more than 1,500 LPFM stations across the U.S. and its territories. Thousands of applications poured in to the FCC 2013 following the passage of new legislation signed in 2011 that opened up opportunities for LPFM stations to operate in larger markets and urban areas.
LPFM stations are spread across all 50 states. Twenty-two states have a moderate number of stations (20-39), though three have more than 100 stations each: Florida (121), Texas (114) and California (102). Additionally, a combined total of 11 LPFM stations are operating in the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The LPFM stations serve both rural and urban communities, but with an operating range of 100 watts or less, most have a broadcast reach of just a few miles and cater to intensely local and niche audiences.
The FCC created LPFM service in 2000 in an effort to better serve local communities following a wave of consolidation in the industry and combat the proliferation of unlicensed, primarily low-power “pirate” radio stations.
LPFM stations can only be licensed to not-for-profit educational organizations and institutions, government or non-government entities that provide public safety radio services, or tribes and tribal organizations recognized by the federal government. These are stations like KALY-LP, aimed at the Somali-American community; the student-run local music station of Rice University in Houston, which turned to the low-power format after the university sold its original station license; and WHIV, a New Orleans-based station run by a local community activist.
In other cases, LPFMs are run by municipal entities such as the Simsbury Volunteer Fire Department in Connecticut or the city of San Marcos, Texas, both of which air emergency and public service announcements. LPFM stations operated by tribes or tribal organizations include KCUW-LP on the Umatilla Indian Reservation near Pendleton, Oregon, and mixes music and traditional storytelling with talk programming on topics such as gang awareness and breast cancer; and KPYT-LP, located on a reservation southeast of Tucson, Arizona, which is run by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and offers programming in the Yaqui language for older residents who don’t speak English.
As with any media venture, LPFM stations must find a way to pay the bills to cover equipment, office space and operating expenses. Groups have used various strategies to raise money. WNHH in New Haven, Connecticut, a project of the New Haven Independent, received grants, while other stations run modest, locally based fundraisers. Still others, such as Takoma Radio, have turned to crowdfunding.
(Source: Pew Research)
According to a global estimate made by the Community Media Forum Europe 2013 there is a total of approx. 17.000 community radio stations in the world. Almost all are broadcasting on FM.
The total number of radio stations in the US is approx. 20.000. On FM there are 6.600 commercial, 4.000 public radio (NPR) or educational and 1.500 community radio (LPFM). Adding to this on analog and digital mediumwave 4.700 radio stations - most commercial.