SHIMODA: How many stations are there in the U.S.?
STONE: If I said a number, I would just be guessing, but there are many. In a major city such as Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco, you might have about thirty or forty FM stations. So if you multiply that you can figure that there are more than a couple of thousand around America. That's not even including AM stations or stations which might be in smaller, more local areas. So there are really quite a few. The vast majority of the stations are commercial stations. The way they do their business is they make the programs and they sell part of their time to advertisers who make commercials. Because of that system, the advertisers want to have the biggest possible audience to hear their commercials, so they always program music which is very popular.
Pop, country-western, "adult-oriented" rock. Usually, even a classical music or jazz format is not popular enough for them. So almost every commercial station has almost the same kind. So as an alternative to that, there is the category of non-commercial stations. These are very few and the system is completely different. They don't get money from advertisers directly, but they get it either from the government or from a kind of sponsor (but not for advertising), or directly from their listeners.
SHIMODA: Who decides the policy or the structure of each FM station?
STONE: Well, sometimes they are owned by big companies and they'll make a company decision. And usually a program director will be hired to do that. You know, a lot of things now with the commercial stations are not decided by anybody human. It's really done almost by a computer. It's a kind of formula. And the computer will say, "O.K., this hour we need two Kenny G.s and one Mariah CAREY followed by...." You know that kind of thing is really done just strictly by a kind of formula.
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