Through the cracks

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Does the FCC know how many broadcast stations are operating in the U.S.? It sure doesn't look like it.

The agency once provided monthly totals of the number of stations on the air in its regularly circulated public documents and on the Mass Media Bureau's Web site. Neither source, however, has been updated for almost a year. (The September 1999 totals were posted Nov. 22 of last year.) Perhaps the bureau just isn't bothering to post the new data, but the biennial regulatory report issued two months ago suggests no one is keeping track. The Sept. 18 report lists the number of commercial radio stations on the air as 4,783 AM and 5,766 FM, precisely the same as the previous year. Maybe the number of stations has remained the same? Unlikely, given that the number of stations was steadily rising before updates disappeared.

As to why no new numbers are being posted on the Web, the FCC press office explained that the staffer previously assigned to tracking station totals left the agency last year and no one has been assigned her old duty.