Nielsen Says Adding New Encoder To Voltair Won’t Mix. More than 4,000 stations have upgraded their PPM encoders to Nielsen’s enhanced CBET, according to the company, with another roughly 7,000 still to go. Nielsen is cautioning against stations running the infamous Voltair audio processor in tandem with its enhanced CBET, claiming the combination is likely to cause audio distortion. “Putting Voltair on top of [enhanced] CBET would be like, not a good thing because immediately it will become audible, meaning the audio quality would suffer,” Nielsen managing director of local media USA Matt O’Grady told Inside Radio. “You’re going to probably hear that distortion that’s common when the watermark is amplified like that.” But many broadcasters appear unwilling to unplug the $15,000 black box that’s said to increase the likelihood of Nielsen’s watermarks being picked up by the PPM and is credited with motivating Nielsen to improve its technology. Programmers tell Inside Radio they’re sticking with Voltair, even after the CBET upgrade. However, some have turned Voltair's settings down to avoid distortion. “We did the [CBET] enhancement and dialed Voltair way down but we’re still running them together,” said one programmer. “You can’t run it as high as you used to.” Another Voltair-equipped programmer is keeping the unit plugged in. “They can’t say [enhanced CBET] is as good as Voltair because it’s not,” this programmer said. But the programmer also acknowledged that running Voltair at a high setting is likely to cause distortion, depending on the format and type of content being broadcast. Pushing Results—Nielsen showcased encoder results at its conference last week, but more must be done; go to InsideRadio.com.
Federal Judge Tosses Bubba’s Motion To Dismiss. A federal court judge has denied a motion to dismiss Nielsen’s $1 million ratings tampering lawsuit against Bubba The Love Sponge (Todd Clem) and his Bubba Radio Network. Judge James D. Whittemore on Dec. 1 denied a motion filed by one of Clem’s attorneys to dismiss the suit, rendering the motion “moot” due to Nielsen’s Nov. 27 filing of an amended complaint against the Tampa-based syndicated morning man. The complaint put more meat on the bones of Nielsen’s case, alleging the host’s efforts to distort the ratings went well beyond the one panelist Clem publicly admitted to having contact with and extending to at least one other state. Filed Nov. 13 by Clem’s attorney Todd Foster, the motion to dismiss was based on grounds that Nielsen’s suit lacked merit to be heard in federal court and “bites off more than it can chew.” It instead requested an oral argument. Two weeks later, Nielsen filed the amended complaint, spelling out in graphic detail Clem’s alleged communications with four additional panelists it claims “falsified their actual listening” in response to “solicitations and according to his detailed instructions.” The amended suit expanded the ratings scandal beyond Clem’s Tampa stronghold to the diary market of Charleston, SC, where his show is heard on L.M. Communications “98 Rock” WYBB. And it alleged cash payments made directly by the host, along with frequent instructions sent by text message from Clem to panelists on what to listen to so as not to arouse Nielsen’s suspicion, and even updates on when the ratings went up or down. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Florida in Tampa, alleges fraud, violation of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, tortious interference with contractual and business relations and conspiracy.
Hispanic Vote in 2016? It’s Up For Grabs. A new study of Hispanic registered voters offers potent ammo for broadcasters with large Latino audiences targeting political ad dollars. Conducted by David Binder Research and Moore Information for Univision Communications, the study concludes that the nation’s considerable Hispanic vote in the 2016 election season is up for grabs. Debunking the common assumption that Hispanics always vote Democrat, the study found 55% of registered Latino voters age 25-54 identify as something other than strong Democrat or strong Republican, making them persuadable voters. It also found that Hispanic persuadable voters do cross party lines to vote for a candidate from the opposing party—in fact, 61% of Republican/Independent Hispanic voters have voted for a Democratic candidate in the past, and 41% of Democratic/Independent Hispanic voters have voted for a Republican candidate, according to the survey. David Binder, founder of David Binder Research, said the study suggests Democratic candidates cannot assume they’ll automatically get the Hispanic vote in 2016 just because they have historically supported the party in the past. “The Hispanic vote will be more valuable than ever in 2016 and each campaign needs to reach out to the Hispanic voter and earn their vote regardless of party affiliation,” Binder said in a news release. ‘Vision Quest—Univision considers itself uniquely positioned to cash in on political; go to InsideRadio.com.
With E. coli Crisis, Chipotle Curbs Ads. Chipotle Mexican Grill canceled virtually all its radio advertising in November, after an E. coli outbreak tied to its restaurants in the Northwest sickened dozens of customers, causing the chain to voluntarily close 43 restaurants in the Seattle and Portland markets. After airing a heavy radio schedule in the fall—11,934 spots on stations tracked by Media Monitors in September and 8,068 in October—the chain ran a mere 40 spots in November amidst the health issue. E. coli cases in the Northwest reported to the Centers for Disease Control occurred from Oct. 24 to Nov. 7. The Seattle Times reported Nov. 3 that the number of cases tied to Chipotle restaurants in the Northwest reached 37. The restaurant chain said the decision to temporally close 43 stores “was made out of an abundance of caution, even though only eleven restaurants have been linked to this incident.” Chipotle has since reopened all of those restaurants. The ad pullback capped an erratic 12 months of radio advertising for the chain, which ran 200 or fewer radio spots per month from Dec. 2014 to March 2015, according to Media Monitors. In April it throttled its radio expenditure to the tune of 10,104 spots, followed by 9,312 in May and 6,993 in June. But July saw a major pullback to just 144 spots, followed by 21 in August before ramping back up in September. Damage Control—There’s still plenty that Chipotle intends to do to regain its PR footing; read more at InsideRadio.com.
Howard Stern: Will He Or Won’t He? With only a handful of shows before Howard Stern’s current contract with SiriusXM Radio ends, mum is still the word regarding whether or not the iconic King of All Media intends to continue his contractual reign. Stern’s wife Beth Ostrosky visited Andy Cohen’s Bravo show “Watch What Happens Live” on Monday and intimated that she’d rather he not. Responding to a caller’s question, the “Yoda Gets A Buddy” author said, “Honestly, he has not made the decision yet; it’s [still] up in the air.” She added that he will announce a decision on the air. According to Radar, Ostrosky said she would prefer the personality back off his current three-day-a-week work schedule to spend more time fostering kittens at their homes in the Hamptons, Manhattan and Palm Beach, FL. “We were talking about that this morning, we love our time at home, he loves helping me foster kittens and he doesn’t want to leave me or the kittens. I personally want more of Howard at home. I’ve really enjoyed his time [since he] finished ‘America’s Got Talent.’” Another rumbling comes from Greg Maffei, CEO of John Malone’s Liberty Media, which owns a majority stake in SiriusXM. At Tuesday’s UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York, the exec said, “I’m confident that we will end up having a relationship with Howard.”
Is Spotify Backing Paid-Only Window? Major recording artists are increasingly putting the kibosh on some new releases appearing on Spotify. Is the streaming service considering allowing musicians to reserve them for pay-only subscribers? A “paid-only” window from Spotify might increase album sales if it led more fans to purchase music, AP reports. That would be music to the ears of artists and record labels pressuring the on-demand music service to pay more for the music it streams. While Spotify is not commenting, the potential platform change was noted in stories this week by both The Wall Street Journal and Billboard. WSJ calls the potential change “a big reversal for Spotify, which has so far maintained unequivocally that its free, ad-supported service needed to have all the latest tunes so that it could compete with free sites such as Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube.” However, the story maintains that “in private talks, Spotify has told music executives that it is considering allowing some artists to start releasing albums only to its 20 million-plus subscribers, who pay $10 a month, while withholding the music temporarily from the company’s 80 million free users.” AP adds that, “Spotify has argued its ‘freemium’ model has been a highly effective tool for gaining new paying subscribers.” But that hasn’t stopped A-list acts such as Taylor Swift and Adele from withholding their new music from the service. The AP story explains that a stream from a paying subscriber earns artists and labels 10 times what they receive from a non-paying user. “Artists and labels are thus extremely interested in limiting streaming plays to paying subscribers. That option is less attractive for Spotify, which is still trying to use its free service as a hook to lure new users.” Tier Drops?—Questions remain about which tier Spotify is most committed to; go to InsideRadio.com.
S A L E S
Minnesota – Linder Radio Group doubles the size of its Rochester, MN cluster with a $3.2 million deal to buy hot AC “97.5 Pulse FM” KNXR from Greg Jensen Hometown Broadcasting. John Linder already owns AC “Cows 100.9” KOWZ-FM in Rochester. Following the sale, Hometown Broadcasting will still own classic country KQAQ (970) in the market.
Ft. Collins, CO – Community Radio for Northern Colorado strikes a $3 million deal to buy sports KJAC (105.5) from Front Range Sports. The public broadcaster already owns news-talk/adult alternative KUNC (91.5) in the market and it intends to give the music programming a dedicated home on KJAC. Community Radio for Northern Colorado will begin operating KJAC under a local marketing agreement until closing. Earlier this year Front Range Sports sold its Denver-market station KDSP (102.3) to Colorado Public Radio for $5.75 million. Broker: Jody McCoy
Wichita – Alan Hsu and Hong Zhang’s La Raza file a $1.65 million deal to buy regional Mexican “La Raza 99.7” KHLT-FM from Daniel Smith’s Bad Gas Broadcast. The sale to the first time buyers includes a $1.35 million, nine-year promissory note. La Raza has been operating the station under a local marketing agreement since November. Bad Gas reclaimed KHLT-FM in October after Air Capitol Media Group reneged on a promissory note connected to their $2 million deal to buy the station in 2013.
Fargo-Moorhead, ND-MN – The next generation of the Ingstad family is moving into station ownership as Brooke Ingstad’s Radio Wahpeton Breckenridge files to buy country KBMW, Breckenridge, MN (1450) from her father James Ingstad in a deal valued at $300,000. Brooke Ingstad already owns the Moorhead, MN-licensed translator K245BY at 96.9 FM which relays the CHR “Hits 96.9” HD2 channel of James Ingstad Broadcast Group’s hot AC “Big 98.7” KLTA-FM. She is also currently an 11% minority owner of her father’s group.
Salisbury-Ocean City, MD – Gregory Bojko’s GBS Broadcasting files a $190,000 deal to buy talk WICO-FM (92.5) from Delmarva Broadcasting. Further down the Eastern Shore coastline Bojko also operates adult hits WCTG, Chincoteague, VA (96.5) under a time brokerage agreement with Sebago Broadcasting. Following the sale Delmarva will still own seven stations in the Salisbury-Ocean City market.
Virginia – Calvary Chapel of Lynchburg files a $90,000 deal to buy “Big Country 105.3” WBNN-FM from Baker Family Stations. Calvary Chapel of Lynchburg already owns religious teaching “Equip FM” stations WEQP (91.7) and WWEQ (90.5) in the Roanoke-Lynchburg market. Baker Family Stations in October agreed to hand over daytime-only sister WKTR (840) to Calvary Chapel of Twin Falls in a donation valued at $120,000.
Arkansas & Mississippi – Dowdy Broadcasting files a pair of deals to buy two translators from Ron Unkefer’s First Ventures Capital Partners. In the first deal it will pay $35,000 to buy the Fordyce, AR-licensed translator K210EA at 89.9 FM. In a second deal, Morgan Dowdy files a $30,000 deal to buy the Winona, MS-licensed translator W278AT at 103.5 FM. Both translators currently simulcast American Family Radio’s contemporary Christian format. Dowdy didn’t tell the FCC which of his stations he plans to rebroadcast on the signals.
Ft. Pierce-Stuart-Vero Beach, FL – Central Educational Broadcasting files a $30,000 deal to buy the Vero Beach, FL-licensed translator W252BB at 98.3 FM from Reach Communications. Central Educational Broadcasting will use the translator to fill its coverage of Christian CHR “Christian FM” WSCF-FM (91.9). The station already simulcasts on the Port Saint Lucie-licensed translator W242AC at 96.3 FM.
North Carolina – The low-power operator JBN files a $25,000 deal to buy the Hendersonville, NC-licensed translator W284CO at 104.7 FM from Western North Carolina Public Radio. The translator will be used to simulcast JBN’s religious teaching low-power WFHC-LP (97.3).
Mississippi – Paul Alexander files a $25,000 deal to buy the Winona, MS-licensed translator W270AO at 101.9 FM from First Venture Capital Partners. The filing says it will simulcast American Family Association’s talk WDFX, Cleveland, MS (98.3).
C L O S I N G S
Chicago – Walter Kotaba’s Polnet Communications closes a $3.45 million deal to buy former “Radio Disney” outlet WRDZ (1300) from The Walt Disney Company. It has begun simulcasting sister “Polskie Radio 1030 Chicago” WNVR. Polnet also owns ethnic Greek/Russian WEEF (1430), ethnic Korean/Russian WKTA (1330), and Spanish “La Campeona” WPJX (1500) in the market as well as the low-power ethnic TV station WPVN-CD (channel 20). Brokers: Bill Schutz and Kozacko Media Services (for seller)
Wyoming – Dan and Kim Dockstader’s SVI Media closes a $900,000 deal to buy the “Star Country USA” simulcast KRSV-FM (98.7) and KRSV (1210) from the Hansen Family Trust. Both stations are licensed to Afton, WY. The terms of the deal include a $300,000 payment at closing and a 15-year promissory note for the balance stretching to 2030.
Minnesota – Community First Broadcasting closes a $735,000 deal to buy oldies KRAQ (105.7) and country KKOJ (1190) in Jackson, MN from Kleven Broadcasting Company of Minnesota. The sale also includes a construction permit for the Spirit Lake, IA-licensed translator K249EO at 97.1 FM. Community First already owns nine stations along the Minnesota-Iowa border but only three – hot AC “Y-100.1” KUYY, AC “FM 104 Campus Radio” KUOO, classic rock “Q-102” KUQQ – have overlap with the two stations it’s buying from Les Kleven. KRAQ has requested the new call letters KUXX.
Multistate Deal – Mike Novak-led Educational Media Foundation closes a $553,750 deal to buy religious teaching stations KEAF, Ft. Smith, AR (90.7) and KIFR, Ft. Dodge, IA (89.5) from Tom Evans-led Family Stations. The deal also includes four translators: the Ames, IA-licensed translator K208FV at 89.5 FM; the Palm Springs, CA-licensed K268AH at 101.5 FM; the Banning, CA-licensed K217BJ at 91.3 FM; and the Smith River, CA-licensed K204CL at 88.7 FM. EMF says the signals will air its contemporary Christian “K-Love” format. EMF has requested the new call letters KLFH for KEAF and KLFG for KIFR. EMF has changed the call letters of KEAF to KLFH and KIFR to KLFG.
Raleigh-Durham, NC – Rudd Media closes on a $545,000 deal to buy news/talk WCHL (1360) from VilCom Interactive Media. The deal also includes the Chapel Hill, NC-licensed translator W250BP at 97.9 FM which simulcasts WCHL. The station had been overseen by trustee Everett Saslow after VilCom sought chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Broker: Jody McCoy
Arizona – Matinee Media closes a $332,500 deal to buy an Aguila, AZ-licensed construction permit. The Class C3 FM covers an area to the northwest of the Phoenix market. Matinee won the right to buy the signal at a May court auction. Trustee Rodney Tow has overseen the station since Able Radio was pushed into involuntary bankruptcy by its lenders in mid-2013.
North Carolina – Bible Broadcasting Network closes a $300,000 deal to buy AC “Sunny 104.5” WILT, Wilmington, NC from Capitol Broadcasting. BBN will convert WILT to a noncommercial operation with the WYHW call letters with plans to simulcast its religious teaching format on the station. Capitol Broadcasting was required to spin-off WILT to meet ownership caps after it bought adult hits “Big John FM 103.7” WBNE from Sea-Comm. Broker: Greg Guy, Patrick Communications
Charlottesville, VA – Saga Communications closes a $150,000 deal to buy the Charlottesville-licensed translator W256BY at 99.1 FM from Positive Alternative Radio. Saga tells the FCC it will simulcast the HD2 subchannel of adult alternative “106.1 The Corner” WCNR on the translator. The signal most recently simulcast Baker Family Stations-owned “Big Country 105.3” WBNN-FM. Broker: Michael Bergner
Ft. Collins, CO – Vic Michael’s Kona Coast Radio closes an $80,000 deal to buy the currently-silent KKCL (1570) from WP Broadcasting. Kona Coast Radio also owns stations in the Denver and Colorado Springs markets. Dave Westburg-led WP Broadcasting is the Pioneer Media Capital-backed company which reacquired the station in May after previous owner Catholic Radio Network defaulted on the terms of a 2009 sale of KKCL valued at $690,000. KKCL has 7,000-watts day and 18-watts at night. It has been off the air since January.
Missouri – Lake Area Educational Broadcasting Foundation closes a $63,000 deal to buy gospel/contemporary Christian KNLQ, Cuba, MO (91.9) from New Life Evangelistic Center. James McDermott-led Lake Area Educational Broadcasting already owns 13 other full-power FMs in Missouri.
Tennessee – Storm Front Communications closes a $44,000 deal to buy classic hits WRKQ, Madisonville (1250) from Beverly Broadcasting Company. Mike Beverly will still own the classic hits simulcast of WDNT, Dayton (1280) and WRHA, Spring City (970); and classic hits WQLA, La Follette (960).
Oklahoma – John Jason Bennett’s Screen Door Broadcasting closes a $25,000 deal to buy KPOP, Hartshorne, OK (94.3) from Southeastern Oklahoma Radio. KPOP is a construction permit for a Class A FM. Bennett already owns seven translators and two full-power stations: KEUC, Ringwood, OK (104.9) and KLJC, Coalgate, OK (96.3) – although neither overlaps with KPOP.