Last week the Pew Research Center released a report detailing the quickly growing number of LPFM radio stations in the US [link]. According to Pew’s analysis of FCC data, the number of stations nearly doubled since 2014, with more than 750 new stations in just over two years.
There are LPFM stations in all 50 states and most US territories.
States with the largest number of LPFM stations are Florida (121), Texas (114) and California (102).
Plus there are around 100 applications still being processed by the FCC.
Unfortunately, the Pew report uses the FCC’s format designations (shown in the chart on the right) that sorts LPFM programming into five format types. “Variety” is the format at 45% of the stations, a term that tells you nothing.
The other four formats are some variation of religious broadcasting. I can’t discern the difference between “Christian” and “Religion” and “Religious Music.” Pew on Pew for their lack of clarity.
REAL WORLD LPFM OWNERSHIP
Last year I did analysis of LPFM stations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa and the Dakotas using data published by Northpine [link]. Northpine’s data was from 2013. I examined 104 LPFM stations in the six states. I don’t know if this tabulation reflects the entire country, but I bet it does.
Chart One (on the left) shows that over 60% of the LPFM stations are owned by religious organizations. No other type of station even comes close. I consider “Community” and “Minority & Tribal” to be “NFCB type” operations. “Government & Public Service” stations are most often outlets that provide traffic, weather and safety information. There are also a small number of “College” stations similar to members of the College Broadcasters Incorporated (CBI).
Things get more definitive in Chart Two which examines the LPFM stations with “Religious” owners. Stations that define themselves as “Evangelical Christian” constitute over 68% of the Religious statins and 42% of the 104 LPFM stations examined.
THE RISE OF CATHOLIC LPFM STATIONS
The Catholic Church in conjunction with the Catholic Radio Association (CRA) [link] has made applications for new LPFM stations a priority since 2014. According to information on the CRA website, there are now 169 Catholic-affiliated LPFM stations, over half of the Catholic radio stations in the nation.
Most of the Catholic LPFM stations are repeaters of EWTN Radio, a 24/7 programming service designed for unattended automated operation. There is typically very little, if any, locally originated programming on these stations.
The stated purposes of LPFM are to provide a voice for local folks and diversify listening choices. From what I have observed, many Catholic LPFMs fail to meet these standards. There are too many that are satellite-fed drones of ETWN Radio, much of which is a simulcast of EWTN’s cable TV channel. Below is a portion of EWTN Radio’s daily programming feed.