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FCC Reports Large Drop in Commercial VHF Television Licenses

Statistics from the FCC's Broadcast Station Totals as of Dec. 31, 2009 [PDF] show the total number of TV stations (VHF, UHF, commercial and educational) stood at 1,782 as of Dec. 31, 2009. There were 537 Class A TV stations and 2,386 low-power TV stations.

How does this compare to the year before (2008)?

The total number of full service TV station licenses increased from 1,759 to 1,782. At the end of 2008, 582 of these were "VHF commercial," as compared with 796 "UHF commercial."

After the DTV transition, the Dec. 2009 report showed a dramatic change in the number of VHF Commercial TV stations. They dropped to 373, as the number of UHF Commercial TV stations rose to 1,019.

The number of Class A TV stations dropped from 554 a year ago. However, the number of licensed low-power TV stations increased, going from 2,286 in 2008 to 2,386 in the latest report.

After the DTV transition, there was a lot of discussion about stations that couldn't afford to transition turning in their licenses. These numbers would indicate that wasn't the case, and, even in this tough economic environment, broadcasting remains an attractive business—full power or low power. The only area showing a significant decline was the number of full service stations transmitting on VHF channels.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.