Wednesday, November 25, 2015


When Thanksgiving gets close I can’t help but think of the classic WKRP episode Turkeys Away when the station gave away turkeys by dropping them from a helicopter over a Cincinnati shopping mall.  WKRP GM Arthur Carlson had the quote of the moment: As God as my witness I thought turkeys could fly!

Here is a four minute clip from the episode:

Almost everyone who has worked in radio has a story about a station promotion that went out of control. Turkeys Away is somewhat based on a real incident that happened at WQXI, Atlanta. WKRP creator and producer Hugh Wilson worked at WQXI before he moved to LA.  Many of the people and incidents in the show were based on WQXI.

The excellent blog Classic TV History [link] published an interview with Wilson and others involved with WKRP. In this interview, former WQXI executive Clarke Brown, tells the true story of the turkey drop:

CLARKE BROWN: The turkey drop was actually a real incident.  It was at a shopping center in Atlanta; I think it was Broadview Plaza, which no longer exists.  It was a Thankgiving promotion.  We thought that we could throw these live turkeys out into the crowd for their Thanksgiving dinners.  All of us, naïve and uneducated, thought that turkeys could fly.  Of course, they went just fuckin’ splat.
People were laughing at us, not with us.  But it became a legend.  [But, in reality] the turkeys were thrown off the back of a truck.
Have a nice Thanksgiving folks!  See you on Monday.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


KUNV – 91.5 The Source – is in the final phase of discussions with Nevada Public Radio (NVPR) to consolidate operations in Las Vegas. According to local news reports, the regents University of Nevada – Las Vegas, licensee of KUNR, will vote on the proposal in December. Observers expect the plan to be approved.

Under consideration is a six-year arrangement that will transfer KUNV’s financial responsibility to NVPR after the first of the year. NVPR will be in charge of KUNV’s overall operations including programming, fund raising, and promotion. NVPR currently owns and operates two stations: NPR News KNPR and Classical 89.7 KCNV.

KUNV [link] has been the jazz voice of Las Vegas for over 30 years. The annual operating budget is around $600,000, small for the size of the city. NVPR’s annual budget is over $7 million. Opponents of the plan worry that the amount of time given to UNLV students (a past tripwire at UNLV) will decrease. Proponents say it will provide undergraduate internships and graduate fellowships in a more professional training environment. 

NVPR CEO Flo Rogers says the plan is important for the future of NVPR citing new opportunities for younger and more diverse students and graduates to work in broadcast and digital media. 
NVPR CEO Flo Rogers
 Rogers told the Las Vegas Weekly: This partnership will provide NVPR an opportunity to address our goal of engaging [a] younger and more diverse audience. It’s a win-win [that will] create rich educational and paid opportunities for students…and build a pipeline of talent for local media outlets.
It is hard to see a downside in the proposed plan. UNLV will continue to have high visibility via KUNV while cutting internal costs. Consider UNLV’s move to be another university edging out of broadcasting to concentrate on its core educational mission.
NVPR will benefit from reaching jazz folks in a market with lots of music events. These new listeners are important to NVPR because their financial support diversifies NVPR's revenue base. It is anticipated that KUNV's program quality will be on a professional par with KNPR and KNCV.  So, listeners will be the biggest winners.
KUNR, Reno recently announced that it obtained, for an unspecified amount, a dormant FCC license from Truckee Meadows Community College in nearby Sun Valley, Nevada. The now silent KJIV 89.5 will remerge in summer 2016 as KNCJ (“Nevada Classical and Jazz”).

The new station will allow KUNR to air NPR News 24/7 while KNCJ will air classical and jazz.  KUNR is now working to pay for startup costs, equipment and engineering services to hopefully move 89.5 closer to metro Reno. KNCJ is currently authorized to cover only part of the market.
Broadcasters should acquire every bit of the FM dial that is available now. Even in small and medium-size markets, the FM spectrum is vulnerable.  Religious broadcasters like Educational Media Foundation are gobbling up FM station and translator frequencies. Soon, the FCC will close the window for new applicants to make way for many AM stations to move to FM via free translators.

Monday, November 23, 2015


A reader asked: Rookie question, how do you value a non-profit, commercial free radio station for sale?

Sometimes noncom radio deals are complicated. But most often they revolve around the basics of any business transaction: upside potential, existing assets and financial strength of the current operation. These are tangible metrics that are similar to what commercial broadcasters use to establish value.

Other tangible metrics common to both commercial and noncommercial station transactions include the size, demographics and economic realities of the market. Another typical factor is the station’s coverage of the market.

An important factor for commercial stations is CASH FLOW, a term that describes net positive revenue. This is generally a projection based on the amount of money the station generates above expenses. This is important because it informs the buyer how much revenue is available to pay back the loans typically needed to purchase the station. Other commercial station tangibles are the value of property such as real estate and equipment (including towers).

Ratings are often very important because they indicate the station’s ability to draw listeners over time and pay back financing. The number one goal of commercial broadcasters is to make money, so cold, hard numbers generally determine sale prices.

Intangible factors are more often factors in noncom station deals.  These include the motivations of the buyer and seller, providing or extending public service and promoting an organization’s mission.

Not all deals are good deals for both the buyer and seller. Here are examples of recent noncom transactions where, in my opinion, one party got the better deal:


As you’ve probably heard, the licensee of KUOW bought KPLU, licensed to Pacific Lutheran University for $8 million [link].  I think KUOW got the best side of deal. 

KUOW not only bought their biggest competitor, they bought a highly successful station with an annual cash flow of almost $6 million. Even after the deal is approved by the FCC and NPR News leaves KPLU, the new 24/7 jazz station will have substantial revenue from day one.  Plus, as we reported last week [link], KUOW acquired four full-power repeater stations and seven FM translators. The buyer, KUOW, can now use these frequencies as they wish including selling or leasing them to other broadcasters.  

What motivated Pacific Lutheran University to sell KPLU? It appears that the university wanted to cash in and focus on its core educational mission.  KPLU said the proceeds will go to the university’s endowment.

For quite a few years, schools and universities have been moving out of broadcast station ownership. Many of these institutions got into the radio business years ago when acquiring licenses was cheap and easy and not much money was at stake.  I call these folks “accidental broadcasters.” 

Bottom line: KPLU is worth a couple of million dollars more than KUOW paid.


As we reported in October [link] WXPN purchased WNTI, Hackettstown, New Jersey for $1,250,000 in cash and $500,000 in underwriting announcements for Centenary College, the current licensee of WNTI. WXPN is using WNTI as a repeater of its Philadelphia signal.

Centenary’s motivation to sell was similar to Pacific Lutheran’s: The desire to focus on the school’s core business of education. Perhaps Centenary was also motivated by contingent liabilities such as FCC fines for “f-bombs” often heard in rock music.  This concern is common at licensees that own college rock stations.

Press accounts describe the sale as “sudden.” Perhaps WXPN rushed too quickly into the deal because other potential buyers were knocking on the door. While it is true that WNTI’s programming was similar to WXPN’s, the potential additional listeners might not bring in much additional revenue.

To me, this is a situation where WXPN should have offered to lease WNTI rather than pay cold cash. I am not certain if WXPN gained anything more than bragging rights.


Last week it was announced that Educational Media Foundation (EMF) is buying an FM noncom station in Kansas and seven FM translators around the country for $315,000. The seller is Family Broadcasting, a religious organization that has been in decline since its founder, the late Harold Camping, who falsely predicted the end of the world. EMF is the nation’s most active noncom station trader and frequently leases translators to commercial broadcasters.

Acquiring translators was ulterior motive. EMF will reap far more than $315,000 with translators covering West Palm Beach, Florida; Auburn, Alabama; Medford, Oregon; and Eau Claire, Wisconsin.