The left side of the FM radio dial—those stations located between 88.1 and 91.9 MHz —are typically reserved for educational, community and noncommercial use. Based on exclusive Inside Radio data that tallies monthly Format Counts, the most popular non-comm format at the end of August 2019 is Religion Teaching & Variety. With a total of 1,974 outlets in the U.S., 1,612 among them are non-comms, with 362 commercial stations.
Second among over-the-air formats on the non-comm side is the all-encompassing Variety—which includes community-based, rural and farming channels. There are 1,138 such stations nationwide—with the vast majority non-commercial: 1,070 compared with only 68 commercial outlets. At No. 3, we return to religious radio, with Contemporary Christian. Even though the likes of Educational Media Foundation are gobbling up frequencies across the entire spectrum, 1,045 are still considered non-commercial, with only 195 in the commercial column. The total count for the format is 1,240 frequencies.
News/Talk is the fourth most popular format airing non-commercial programming, which includes NPR outlets. But unlike Religion, Variety and Contemporary Christian, there are more commercial outlets than non-comms for this format. With a total of 1,996 N/T stations, 732 are non-comms, to 1,264 that are commercial. The balance tips back the other way for No. 5 Alternative, thanks to college radio—with 356 non-comm outlets to only 111 commercial, totaling 467 nationwide.
Spanish, at No. 6, again leans toward commercial: Out of a total 1,170 such stations, 866 are commercial vs. 304 non-comms airing the format. Not surprisingly, nearly all Classical stations are now non-commercial, with 257 compared to a mere 9 commercial, totaling 266 across the dial.
No. 8 Southern Gospel has 127 non-comms and 127 commercial stations, totaling 254. And Jazz’s total of 99 are split with 78 non-comms to 21 commercial; while No. 10 among the formats with the most non-comms is Oldies, with 65 non-commercial stations among its total of 341, and 276 commercial formats.
Outside of the top 10 non-commercial radio formats, Country—which has more stations than any other format—there are a mere 41 non-comms among its 2,197 stations; 2,156 are commercial.
The radio formats with the least noncommercial stations are Sports (1), Pre-Teen (2) and Soft AC (3).
Reviewing the top 10 U.S. radio formats at the end of August 2019, based on the number of outlets, Country maintains its clear lead (2,197 signals), followed by News/Talk (1,996), Religion (Teaching, Variety) (1,974), Contemporary Christian (1,240), Spanish (1,170), Variety (1,138), Classic Hits (1,088), Sports (706), Top 40 (627) and Adult Contemporary (585). All 10 held the same positions in July.—Chuck Taylor
Inside Radio takes a look at Format Count trends on a monthly basis. To review July 2019’s biggest trends, see HERE. Next month, a look at the leading formats on FM vs. AM.