Thursday, May 27, 2004

Slow Death of Radio

People have often told me that I left my news reporter job at one of the local radio stations just in time. I don't doubt they're correct since the already short-handed staff in the newsroom experienced a downsizing a year after I left. Since I left, the station owner who had promised to keep the then 78-year old radio station locally owned sold it to a Cleveland company. The latest news is just more proof that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 is a dismal failure.

The Cleveland-based company, Media One Group, announced this week that they have entered into an asset purchase agreement to buy the other big group of radio stations in Jamestown. This would make the total number of stations owned by one company in the metro area five. You are allowed to own up to six in an area by FCC regulations. If this agreement is approved by the FCC, there will be only one radio station (WKZA) located in Jamestown that is not owned by Media One Group. I exclude WNED and WBFO since they are located and broadcast out of the Buffalo area.

When you consider that Chautauqua County only has 139,000 people and the city of Jamestown (excluding metro area) has 32,000, you can safely say that Media One Group's purchase would create a legal monopoly in this area. This has happened in almost every area that has radio stations. I challenge anyone to identify radio stations that are locally owned in their area.

When you have conglomerates, it means homogenization. Sure, you still get your mix of classic rock, top 40, country, and oldies but when you start traveling across the country you may start to notice that you're hearing the same bumper/jingles for those same style of music stations elsewhere. Your local dj's may be slowly replaced by syndicated, satellite-fed programs with a host located miles away from your hometown. The previous-local station sounds just like every other radio station out there. And even the modern rock, "alternative" rock, top 40, hot adult contemporary, classic rock, and rock stations are starting to sound similar with different artists "crossing" over into genres. There's less diversity of musical artists on the air.

Don't like this? Want to make it change? Contact your Senators and Congress Representatives. Write letters to the FCC. Complain bitterly.

I'll leave this with a copy of the article that appeared in our local paper today:

Media One To Buy Three Area Radio Stations
By John Whittaker

A possible location change is likely to be the only major change for three local radio stations to be purchased by the Media One Group of Cleveland.

Media One Group officials announced on Tuesday that the company has entered into an asset purchase agreement to buy WKSN (AM-1340), WHUG (FM-101.9) and WQFX (FM-103.1) for $4.5 million from the Vox Radio Group.
The company purchased WJTN (AM-1240) and WWSE (FM-93.3) in May 2002 for $5.9 million from the James Broadcasting Co. and local owners R. Michael Goldman and Merrill Rosen.

Now that the parties have agreed to the purchase agreement, Vox Radio Group and Media One Group will submit documents to the Federal Communications Commission. The sale is expected to be closed by mid- to late August.

James L. Embrescia, Media One Group president and managing partner, was in Jamestown on Tuesday to announce the purchase agreement. On Wednesday, he said the companies should be able to co-exist despite being small-market competitors for more than four decades.

"We don't expect any changes at all but a very cohesive blending of these two businesses,'' Embrescia said. ''We want them to be autonomous from that perspective. We might consider, since we have two locations, having everybody at one location. But, we haven't gone through all of that yet."

Acquiring the Vox Radio Group stations allows Media One Group to diversify its audience in Western New York and northern Pennsylvania, something that Embrescia said is necessary in the existing radio broadcasting environment.

"WHUG is a country station, WQFX has (Don) Imus and the album rock in a separate kind of format and WKSN is oldies,'' he said. ''Those are entirely different products hitting different core audiences than you have with WJTN, which is a heritage station with more than 80 years on air and SE-93, which is adult contemporary geared toward women as its core audience."

Vox Radio Group is a small-market broadcasting company formed in 1999 to consolidate and operate regional radio clusters in the northeastern United States. Media One Group, meanwhile, owns nearly 60 radio and television stations in affiliated companies in 16 markets throughout the United States.

It is owned by three Cleveland natives: James Embrescia, Thomas J. Embrescia and Lee Zapis.

"We are excited to acquire these excellent stations in this attractive market for Media One,'' Embrescia said. ''These are well-established heritage stations with an outstanding record of performance."

WKSN and WHUG were sold to Trend Broadcasting Inc. in 1980 after changing hands and call signs several times since their creation in 1948 as WJOC by Harry E. Layman and Robert Blalock.

Vox Radio Group obtained the stations in the 1990s along with WQFX. Embrescia said that the stations' listeners won't notice any difference from the new ownership.

"It's a wonderful blending of those formats from that perspective for different core audiences and between men and women,'' Embrescia said. ''It's what our business is about today. That's what made it so attractive. I don't think listeners will notice anything at all. We'll just continue with the same great programming and the same great service that these stations have always provided."


dangerousjohnny said...

radio is controlled by right wing zeolots now a days.

Anonymous said...

Hi there....I just happened to stumble upon this entry regarding the Jamestown-area radio stations and Media One Group...and I feel it necessary to comment.

I've been working for the Media One Group of stations in Jamestown now for 13-months. I'm part-time, so I don't get benefits. And right now, I'm mortally pissed off at the corporate mismanagement of Media One.
The president, Jim Embrescia, has called for cutting back my hours.

This isn't the first time he's done this. Back in March and April, I was allowed to work overtime to get the work I need to get done. That soon vanished, and I was only allowed to work the maximum 40-hour weeks with no overtime. Now he's cutting back on the maximum regular hours, too! He found out that I'm working some additional hours beyond me scheduled hours. And those hours I normally work outside of my schedule are necessary for me to get all of my work done!!!

That cutback really pushes me to the limit. I'm now planning on filing a complaint against Media One mismanagement. But this complaint will have nothing to do with the cutback...this will pertain to overtime hours I've worked in the past that they never paid me for.

So my question is...can you give me assistance in filing this complaint?

Julia said...

I'm afraid you're on your own in that regard. How Media One decides to manage the station in terms of hours/personnel is their business and has nothing to do with the FCC for the most part. If you're that unhappy, then you probably would better serve yourself by doing as good a job you can do and applying for jobs elsewhere.

John Gallagher said...

Stumbled across this blog in a web search. I worked for WKSN and WHUG from 1979-1981. I was only 20 years old when I started and so naive. Yet, the Trend broadcast Center was one of the nicest facilities I ever worked at in 23 years of radio broadcasting.

Was in Jamestown last week and was dismayed to see how the building on Front St. was so run down looking. What a shame...

Julia said...

John - Actually, WKSN/WHUG and The Fox have now all moved up on "the hill" into the same building as SE-93 and WJTN. The new facilities up there are pretty swanky. I don't know if Media One still owns the Front Street property.

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