Saturday, November 21, 2009

Senate Votes to Move Health Deabte Forward

Since this is a blog about the current state of the media and, in general, media trading, radio and TV station values and future predicted trends, I don't get into politics on this blog. However, due to recent activity on Capitol Hill regarding the national health care plan, also known as the Obama Care Plan, I felt it necessary to bring you up to date on the current status. Below is the story from the Wall Street Journal. The story was written by Wall Street Journal reporter Greg Hitt. Welcome to socialist America.


WASHINGTON—Democrats and independents closed ranks Saturday and voted to move forward with debate on landmark legislation that would overhaul the nation's health system and extend health insurance to 31 million Americans.

The 60-39 Saturday vote came after a handful of undecided senators—centrist Democrats Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas—signaled their readiness to begin action on the $848 billion package crafted by Democratic leaders.

The vote was a validation of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's strategy of building consensus first among party loyalists rather than reaching across the aisle to Republicans, a move that would have forced the Nevada Democrat to pare ambitions and push a more modest bill.
"They shouldn't be afraid to debate," said Sen. Reid, who was celebratory after the vote. "This is the United States Senate."

Republicans, who were threatening a filibuster to stall action, said the legislation would cost too much. "Move over, Bernie Madoff," said Sen. Christopher Bond (R., Mo.). "Tip your hat to a trillion-dollar scam."

In the final tally, all 58 Democrats, and the two independents allied with the party, joined together to move forward on the bill. The roll call was conducted with senators sitting at their desks, a rarely used show of decorum that underscored the significance of the vote. Thirty-nine Republicans were opposed. One Republican, Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, didn't vote.
Sixty votes are needed in the 100-member Senate to end a filibuster. The vote set the stage for two to three weeks of debate in December and perhaps more in January, in a struggle that is sure to color the 2010 fight for control of Congress.

Mr. Reid said he took a call in the Senate cloakroom immediately after the vote from the widow of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who devoted much of his career to the cause of health care. "Ted would be happy," Mr. Reid said, adding he sees the "finish line" ahead for the bill.

The push in the Senate follows approval in the House Nov. 7 of companion legislation that would overhaul the health system.

Republicans, who are vowing to use every tactic available to slow action and frustrate the White House's top domestic priority, portrayed the vote as an endorsement of the legislation. It includes new taxes and cuts in Medicare payments to health-care providers, in addition to an expansion of Medicaid, the federal-state health program for the poor, and new government subsidies to help lower- and middle-income people buy insurance.

Republicans beseeched wavering moderate Democrats not to fall into line, hoping to derail the bill and force Mr. Reid to deal more directly with the minority party. "Today in the Senate, we don't need 40 Democrats to stand up for what's right. We need just one," said Sen. Mike Johanns (R., Neb.).

But they couldn't get it.

Beginning Friday, the final undecided Democrats starting coming off the fence. First was Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson, who said he didn't want to deny the voters in his state a voice on the issue. "The Senate owes them a full and open debate," he said.

Then came Sen. Landrieu. The Louisiana Democrat said Saturday the bill crafted by Sen. Reid isn't perfect, citing a need for more aid to help small businesses purchase insurance, among other things. But she said her concerns didn't merit standing in the way of action. "I've decided that there are enough significant reforms and safeguards in this bill to move forward, but much more work needs to be done," she said.

A few hours later, Sen. Lincoln of Arkansas took to the Senate floor. She also voiced concerns, noting she didn't favor the proposed government-run insurance plan "as it is written" in the bill. But Sen. Lincoln said she didn't intend to hold up debate, and complained Republicans – who are gunning for her defeat next year -- were simply trying to "revive their political party" by opposing the initiative.

"Although I don't agree with everything in his bill, I have concluded that I believe it is more important that we begin this debate to improve our nation's health-care system for all Americans, rather than simply drop the issue and walk away," she said. "That is not what people sent us here to do."

Of all the wavering senators, Sen. Lincoln was under the greatest pressure. She faces a tough re-election battle next year, and polls show the health legislation is not popular in her conservative state. Republican strategists swiftly blasted her Saturday for giving Democratic leaders the "60th vote" to take up the bill.

"Obviously, the pressure from the left wing of her party finally got to Blanche Lincoln," said Amber Wilkerson Marchand, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of Senate Republicans. She said "the people of Arkansas will have an opportunity to hold" Sen. Lincoln "accountable when they cast their ballots next November."
Though the economy is emerging again as a major issue for voters, Democratic leaders in both chambers of Congress, as well as the White House, are heavily invested in enacting health legislation, intending to make good on a major Democratic promise from the 2008 campaign.

The outcome of debate in the Senate – where the push for health-overhaul legislation died in 1994 -- is the biggest uncertainty facing Democratic leaders and the White House. Not only do Republicans have big leverage to shape debate, but Democrats are not united on details, and difficult negotiations lie ahead on issues like the government-run insurance plan and aid to small businesses, among other things.

The legislation would create a national "exchange" where small businesses and individuals could purchase insurance. It would require most people to carry health insurance or face a penalty of up to $750 per person.

Under the bill, employers with more than 50 workers who don't offer insurance would be required to make a payment to the government to defray the taxpayers' cost of insuring the workers. Additionally, insurers would be barred from engaging in a range of practices – such as denying insurance because of pre-existing conditions -- that critics say have led to gaps in coverage across the country and created turmoil in family budgets. The bill would also create a government-run insurance plan, while giving states the option not to participate.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill would reduce the deficit by $130 billion over the next decade, in part due to cuts in Medicare payments to health-care providers but also because of a range of new taxes. They include new fees on drug makers and medical-device makers, a tax on high-value insurance plans, and higher Medicare payroll taxes for families making more than $250,000 a year.

"Senators who support this bill have a lot of explaining to do," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.). "Americans know that a vote to proceed on this bill is a vote for higher premiums, higher taxes, and massive cuts to Medicare. That's a pretty hard thing to justify supporting."

Write to Greg Hitt at

Friday, November 20, 2009

Senate Committee Passes Low Power FM Bill

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation voted in favor of the Local Community Radio Act of 2009, a bill that would allow for the expansion of Low Power FM stations by abolishing third-adjacent channel spacing requirements for full power FM outlets. The legislation has already made it through two key House committees and looks to pass out of the full House.
The Act was introduced by Congressional members Mike Doyle and Lee Terry, which would alter a law passed in 2000 limiting Low Power FM to rural parts of the country. These stations are non-commercial 100-watt radio service that reaches a radius of 5 to 7 miles.
The National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB) has been an ongoing supporter of and advocate for LPFM. Approximately 25% of NFCB's 250 members are LPFM stations. NFCB believes there is a need for more communities to have their own LPFM. NFCB President/CEO Carol Pierson describes NFCB's involvement in LPFM as "consistent with our values of localism, diversity, and public service."

Friday, October 9, 2009

Emmis Radio Fiscal Q2 Revenues Down 26.5%

In a filing with the SEC Friday, Emmis Communications reported a 26.5% drop in revenues for its fiscal second quarter to $67.8 million from 92.7 million a year earlier. Station operating income (SOI) fell 50.1% from $27.1 million.

The company posted a net loss of $135.6 million ($3.67 per share), compared to net earnings of $1.2 million (3 cents) in the year-ago period. The loss reflects a $170.98 million impairment charge related to the value of its stations.

Emmis' local ad revenues declined 30.6% to $40.7 million from $58.6 million, while national totals fell 51% to $7.5 million from $15.3 million. In the filing, Emmis said net revenues "decreased principally as a result of a precipitous decline of advertising spending due to the global economic slowdown."

On a up note, the company said, "Local sales have been slightly more resilient than national sales," falling 29% in the first half of its fiscal year, while national was down about 49%.
Emmis also took a shot at Arbitron, saying its New York and Los Angeles stations are "trailing the performance" due to the company's "lack of scale" and that its stations "target demographics that suffer a disproportionate decline in ratings when measured by the PPM."

WARH (106.5 The Arch) Makes St. Louis Radio History

History took a turn in St. Louis Thursday with the release of PPM. Yes for the first time in 130+ Arbitron surveys, Variety Hits WARH-FM (106.5 The Arch) became the first station to knock longtime ratings leader News/Talk KMOX-FM out of the #1 slot for Persons 12+, as The Arch now holds that #1 position.

In the latest PPM ratings period, 106.5 The Arch leads the St. Louis radio market in Total Reach with 10.9 rating of Persons 12+. Cume not only remained at #1 with the new PPM system, but took a commanding lead over their competitors by 2.6 points in the overall Monday-Sunday 6am-Midnight time period.

The station's Cume experienced significant growth; WARH-FM reaches nearly a million listeners each week, or 40% of St. Louis' total listening audience.

The Arch PD Kevin Robinson noted, "We are honored to be the station to have broken KMOX's long-running and esteemed record as the number one radio station among Person 12+ in St. Louis. We're excited about our recent Arbitron survey results, and the entire staff is committed to do our best work possible in order to improve upon our success."

Robinson continues. "To put this achievement into perspective, the history of 130+ Arbitron surveys since a competitor overtook KMOX in the ratings is well over 42 years ago, when the Beatles were on the charts, the original Busch Stadium was just a few years old and the Gateway Arch still had that fresh, 'new Arch smell' to it!"

Local Community Radio Act Passes Subcommittee

The Local Community Radio Act of 2009 has passed out of a key House Subcommittee, clearing the way for the possibility of hundreds more Low Power FM (LPFM) stations. LPFMs are 100-watt non-commercial radio that can be broadcast at low cost to a small community area, possibly opening the door for schools, labor unions, churches and non-profit groups to operate.

Thursday's subcommittee vote represents a major victory for community radio advocates including Prometheus Radio Project, United Church of Christ and more.

"The bill still has a long way to go in the legislative process, but I am optimistic that by the end of the year the Local Community Radio Act will be signed into law," said lead co-sponsor of the bill Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA) with Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE).

Reprinted from Radio-Online.Com

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Univision Closes on WQXR./NY, Set for Signal Swap

Univision is set to takeover the frequency of Classical 6kw WQXR-FM (96.3)/New York Thursday night at 8pm concluding the previously anounced deal with the New York Times for $33.5 million. Concurrently, crosstown News/Talk WNYC-FM takes Univision's Tropical 600-watt WCAA-FM (105.9)'s equipment and license, and the right to the WQXR call letters from the Times Company for $11.5 million.

Univision Radio will transition WCAA-FM from 105.9 to 96.3 Thursday night providing the Spanish-language operator with expanded coverage of the New York Hispanic demographic. WNYC will operate WQXR on 105.9 FM and continue to serve its current audience as a listener-supported public station dedicated to classical music. (10-08-09)

Former WTKS Middayer Burke Plans Return to Radio

Former WTKS-FM (Real Radio 104.1)/Orlando midday host Shannon Burke is preparing a return to the airwaves. He's buying a 2-hour slot on 1kw WORL-AM (660)/Orlando for a show on Saturdays. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Burke is selling commericials to air during the program, which the newspaper says is expected to air for at least 12 weeks.

Last May, Burke was arrested on charges related to shooting both his wife and her dog and he faces charges of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. Clear Channel terminated Burke's contract after he was arrested. He was released on $25,000 bail, with orders to get psychological help and stay away from drugs, alcohol, guns and his wife. (10-08-09)

Citadel Media Appoints John Rosso as President

Industry veteran John Rosso is appointed President of Citadel Broadcasting's network division, Citadel Media. He succeeds Jim Robinson, who exits the company after five years at the helm, mostly under the ABC Radio Networks brand. In his new role, Rosso will oversee ABC News Radio, ESPN Audio and nine individual 24-hour formats.

Citadel Media also distributes "The Michael Baisden Show," "The Mark Levin Show," "Radio Perez with Perez Hilton," "Imus in the Morning," "Rick Dees Weekly Top 40," "American Country Countdown with Kix Brooks" and many other national programs through more than 4,400 affiliate stations.

"We are very pleased to have someone of John's caliber leading Citadel Media's efforts as we enter into this exciting and challenging time for the network business," said Citadel Chiarman/CEO Farid Suleman. "John's breadth of experience and first-hand knowledge of Citadel Media's operations makes him ideally suited for this leadership role to develop and leverage new opportunities the network presents."

"I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to lead Citadel Media and look forward to collaborating with the talented team here, both on-air and behind the scenes," added Rosso. "We will continue to build on the network's solid foundation as we bring industry-leading content to our affiliates and deliver great audiences and solutions to our advertisers."

Rosso most recently served as Senior VP/Citadel Interactive. Previously, he held positions at ABC Radio Networks including Senior VP/Affiliate Relations and Business Administration and VP/Operations. Prior to joining Citadel, Rosso was Senior VP/Digital Media for The Walt Disney Company's ABC Radio division. (10-07-09)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

PE Firms Ask Banks to Rescue Clear Channel

After failing twice to restructure its debt, private-equity firms THL Partners and Bain Capital that acquired Clear Channel last year, are asking some large banks to help keep the company from defaulting on its loans, reports the New York Post. But sources say these are the same institutions that the firms fought to force the banks to live up to their commitment to fund the buyout.

That means Clear Channel may now default on its highly leveraged $27 billion buyout by year-end or early next year, sources said.The radio giant is in danger of exceeding a loan requirement that its senior debt equal no more than 9.25 times its cash flow.

You might remember that the banks that underwrote the debt -- Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, RBS and Wachovia -- wanted both THL Partners and Bain Capital to walk away from the buyout. But the PE firms forced the banks to issue loans that would be difficult to syndicate. Since then, most of the lenders have since sold their CC debt at discount prices.

The PE firms together own 16 percent of Clear Channel's senior loans, and if the company goes bankrupt, they would likely own a piece of the de-leveraged business, which could turn into a profitable investment, reports the newspaper.

Meanwhile, banking sources told The New York Times "Dealbook" that neither Bain Capital or THL Partners have approached any of the banks to prevent the radio giant from defaulting or with a plan to restructure the company's debt. (10-07-09)

Lutheran Sells 100kw KFUO/St. Louis for $18 Million

The board of directors of Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod have agreed to sell 100kw Classical KFOU-FM (99.1)/St. Louis. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the 61-year-old classical music outlet is being purchased by Gateway Creative Broadcasting, for $18 million plus $8 million in interest over a 10-year term. The sale will become final in March, pending FCC approval.
Des Peres, MO-based Gateway is the parent of Joy FM, which broadcasts Christian contemporary music. It presently owns two stations, in nearby Potosi and Bowling Green, that do not reach St. Louis.
According to sources close to the Synod's board of directors, Gateway will pay $150,000 immediately, $1.35 million at closing, an additional $1.5 million in interest and amortization in the fourth year, and the remainder in the tenth year.
LCMS treasurer Tom Kuchta and board member Kermit Brashear, an Omaha lawyer and politician, handled the sale. Brashear handled the negotiations. (10-06-09)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Boston's commercial-classical WCRB (99.5) is sold to cross-town WGBH

Public radio/TV operator WGBH will convert WCRB, Lowell, MA to non-commercial operation, like its own news-and-classical WGBH (89.7) – and in fact, it’s already asking for donations on its website. WGBH legitimately plays the role of preserving WCRB’s decades-old classical format, at a time when a company like Entercom might want the 99.5 frequency for sports. Seller is Nassau Broadcasting, which is being acquired by its main lender, Goldman Sachs. Nassau acquired the intellectual property of the WCRB classical format and the 99.5 frequency in a two-market swap with Greater Media several years ago. The 2009 price for WCRB is $14 million, and this new deal is brokered by Patrick Communications' Larry Patrick and Greg Guy for seller Nassau, and by Public Radio Capital for buyer WGBH. Marc Hand of Public Radio Capital managing director Marc Hand says “this is an extraordinary opportunity for WGBH to strengthen and enhance its strong commitment to classical music programming.”

Reprinted from Radio-Info.Com Monday, September 21, 2009.

Monday, September 14, 2009

WQXR/WCAA New York Frequency Swap To Occur October 8

The frequency swap of Classical 96.3 WQXR New York and Spanish Urban “La Kalle 105.9″ WCAA made possible by the $45 Million Three-way swap announced in July, will take place on October 8 at 8:00pm from the stage of Carnegie Hall. Univision paid the New York Times Company $33.5 Million for the 96.3 allocation. WNYC then paid $11.5 Million for the WQXR intellectual property and the 105.9 signal. WQXR will convert to non-commercial operation under WNYC’s ownership and will continue to air Classical Music programming. Soon-to-be sister 93.9 WNYC-FM will drop its nighttime and weekend Classical programming for more News/Talk.

This story is reprinted from RadioInsight.Com which appeared on September 11, 2009.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cross-Country Moves

By Harry C. Martin

Two TV stations ask to move from Nevada and Wyoming to compete in the Philadelphia and New York markets.

Two small Western-state TV stations have notified the FCC that they plan on moving from Wyoming and Nevada to Delaware and New Jersey, where they would compete in the Philadelphia and New York markets, respectively. Strangely enough, existing law may support these moves.


When the FCC first allocated TV frequencies, only two states - New Jersey and Delaware - did not receive commercial VHF allocations. Recognizing this inequality, in 1982 Congress enacted Section 331(a) of the Communicatiosn Act, which mandates the FCC's policy to allocate commercial VHF TV channels such that "not less than one such channel shall be allocatted to each state, if technically feasable." And if a commercial VHF licensee notifies the FCC that it is willing to have its channel moved to a community with no VHF commercial station, then the Commission "Shall" order the reallocation and grant the license modification.

The technical feasability condition kept Delaware from obtaining any local VHF channels in the next 27-years due to the need to protect stations in nearby Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. But in New Jersey, the owners of New York station WOR-TV, then VHF channel 9, were embroiled in a difficult license renewal contest. Taking advantage of Section 331, they asked the FCC to reallocate their channel from New York to Secaucus, New Jersey. This resolved the renewal problem, and New Jersey had its first VHF TV station.

In reallocatting TV channels for DTV, the FCC again did not allot any commercial VHF channels to New Jersey or Delaware. This meant that once the old Secaucus station moved from Channel 9 to DTV Channel 38, New Jersey once again have no commercial VHF station, while Delaware never had one.

The Proposal

Viewing these facts and law as an opportunity, an enterprising broadcaster bought VHF TV stations on DTV channel 3 in Ely, Nevada, population 4040, and DTV Channel 2 in Jackson, Wyoming, population 9030. The broadcaster then notified the FCC that it wanted to move its two stations to Middletown Township, New Jersey and Wilmington, Delaware respectively, and asked for the license modification necessary to accommodate the moves.

Operation of the stations in Middletown Township and Wilmington will not technically foreclose continued use of Channels 3 and 2 in Ely and Jackson. The Commission could easily reallocate those channels back to the communities on a permanant basis. And it could grant interim operating authority to deserving "eligible entities" (small businesses) such as the ones the Commission has been seeking to promote through its diversification initiatives. The proponent of the moves to Delaware and New Jersey has even offered to provide interim low-power TV service to Ely from an LPTV station it is acquiring in that market.

The FCC has yet to react to this propsal, but if it follows Section 331, Delaware will have its own full-power commercial VHF station for the first time, and New Jersey's full-power commercial VHF service will be restored.

This Article was written for Broadcast Engineering by Harry C. Martin, a member of the communications law firm Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth, PLC.

Monday, August 24, 2009

WQXR - FM New York Sold - $45 Million

Prelude By Mark Tillery

After 65-years of continuous ownership, the New York Times Company has announced it will sell New York City's longest running and only remaining commercial Classical FM radio station in a three way deal - The total price: $45 Million to the Times.

In the deal, WNYC Radio will acquire the WQXR call letters and the classical format while Univision will acquire the 96.3 class B frequency. Univision's existing WCAA frequency, which operates on 105.9 and in licensed to Newark, New Jersey, and the heritage WQXR call letters and classical and cultural programming will go to WNYC Radio while Univision's WCAA will move to the coveted mid FM dial position located at 96.3.

The story was originally announced by the New York Times on July 14th. Click the link below for the complete story.