The number of FM translators and boosters licensed by the Federal Communications Commission increased 4% during the past year, driven by several filing windows designed to allow AM operators to secure an FM signal. New figures released by the FCC show there were 7,848 translators and boosters as of Sept. 30. That’s an increase of 127 since the end of second quarter. The count represents a new record high number of translators, a figure that’s expected to continue to grow as the Media Bureau processes and approves more pending applications in the coming months.
Even as some in the low-power community have complained the growth in translators will mean fewer opportunities for LPFMs, the FCC reports there were a record 2,175 licensed LPFMs at the end of third quarter. That’s an 8% increase compared to a year earlier. Even with this increase, the numbers also show a sequential slowing in the pace of new LPFMs signing on: During second quarter there was a 10% increase in the number of low-power stations, preceded by a 12% increase during first quarter. Low-power advocates fear a swarm of new translators is making it more difficult for LPFMs to sign on, or could potentially box in stations at their current transmitter sites.
When it comes to full-power stations, the third quarter was mostly status quo. The number of commercial FMs at the end September was one lower than what the FCC reported at the end of June. The number of noncommercial FMs grew by two—setting another new record. Meanwhile, the number of AMs continues to slowly slide, declining by another half dozen during the third quarter. It’s why the FCC has put so much emphasis on helping stations get FM translators. FCC chair Ajit Pai has said that when the final windows and auctions designed to help AM owners secure translators are finished, nearly half of AMs will have a companion FM signal.
Beyond radio, the FCC reports the total number of full-power television stations was steady with 1,761 licensed as of Sept. 30. The latest FCC data shows the total number of low-power TV stations was unchanged at 1,911. Overall, there were a total of 33,243 radio and television licenses issued by the FCC.