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NASHVILLE (Billboard) - Country is still king when it comes to radio, but news/talk is closing the gap.
As of October, there were 2,054 country stations in the United States, which is up slightly from 2,049 a year earlier, according to M Street, which tracks such statistics. News/talk stations now total 2,026, an increase of 18 from a year ago. The number of news/talk stations has increased by nearly 500 in the past 10 years -- there were 1,567 in 1997. Country, by comparison, has lost more than 450 stations during the same time period.
Among current music-driven formats, country is tops, followed by contemporary Christian stations (920), Spanish (917), adult contemporary (666) and top 40 (495). Contemporary Christian stations are on the rise, up from 897 a year ago, as are Spanish-language stations, which tallied 819 at this time in 2006. AC is essentially flat, while top 40 is down 15 stations from a year ago.
Other formats that number more than 300 stations include "hot" adult contemporary (up eight stations to 392), alternative rock (basically flat at 385 stations), Southern gospel (up 15 from last year to 316) and rock (up nine stations to 300).
M Street began tracking rhythmic adult contemporary, a relatively new format that plays everything from Akon to Bee Gees and Michael Jackson to Janet Jackson, earlier this year and counts 27 mostly large-market stations in the format.