The Federal Communications Commission says there are 14,619 AM, FM and educational broadcast radio stations in the USA. Cision, a Chicago company that tracks media, says 883 have programming in 35 foreign languages. Spanish and Spanish/English bilingual programming account for 747 of those stations, but the stew includes Romanian, Punjabi, Gaelic, Albanian and Creole. Inside Radio, which monitors industry trends, says there were 574 Spanish stations in 2001.
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The Internet allows people to listen to radio stations located almost anywhere in the world, but producers of foreign-language programs say there's still a need for local news, music and information in immigrants' native tongues.
"People have to have a voice that connects them to their community," says Hussien Mohamed, director of Sagal Radio Services, a non-profit group that since 1998 has provided weekly programs in Somali, Swahili, Amharic and Bhutanese-Nepali to Atlanta area stations.
The shows include news from home, practical information for new U.S. residents and call-in segments. "When you can hear your own voice coming from the radio, it makes a big difference," Mohamed says.