Entercom recently turned in the license for one of its Sacramento FMs. Now, in an even more significant move, it has reached a settlement with the group that’s been challenging the company’s right to operate five other stations in the market. Under their tentative agreement, Entercom agrees to cover the $35,000 spent by the Media Action Center (MAC) on legal fees and other expenses to challenge the company during the past decade. “The parties believe that a settlement…will serve the public interest in that it will speed the resolution of, and bring finality to, the disputes between them—without the need for the expenditure of additional time and resources,” says the agreement filed with the Federal Communications Commission.
The challenge has its roots in CHR “107.9 The End” KDND’s ill-fated 2007 “Water for Wii” contest which led to the death of one of its contestants, 28-year-old Jennifer Strange. Activist and documentary filmmaker Sue Wilson—the force behind the Media Action Center—used that incident to urge the FCC to reject Entercom’s attempt to renew KDND’s license. The Media Bureau agreed last October to put that question into what amounts to a trial setting. Wilson also filed a request to enlarge the case to challenge the five other stations in the cluster, including “Star 106.5” KUDL, “98.5 Rock” KRXQ, classic rock “Eagle 96.9” KSEG, modern rock “Radio 94.7” KKDO and “ESPN Sports 1320” KIFM.
Then last month, Entercom abruptly announced it would voluntarily turn in the license for KDND although it kept “The End” format alive by shifting it to KUDL. Nevertheless, Wilson called the decision a “victory for public interest” and while she initially pressed forward with her case by challenging the licenses of the other five stations, settlement talks quickly led to an agreement. The pact still needs to be approved by FCC Chief Administrative Law Judge Richard Sippel who was set to hear the case. The Enforcement Bureau wasn’t part of the negotiations, however it has weighed in saying it “does not oppose” the proposed terms, according to agency filings.
Entercom may have made peace with the Media Action Center, but it continues to be the focus of attention for California broadcaster Ed Stolz. The FCC dismissed his attempt to intervene in the case in November, concluding he had no legal connection to the situation. And while it weighs his petition appealing that decision, Stolz is now urging the Enforcement Bureau to press forward with its hearing on whether Entercom should lose the licenses for the other five stations in the cluster. “Entercom must not be allowed to walk away from the serious hearing issues,” he writes in a letter to the agency. Stolz argues the FCC has “an obligation” to take a closer look in light of the company’s pending deal to buy CBS Radio. He’s asking the FCC to revoke its license renewals for the five stations until the administrative law judge, or at the very least the Media Bureau, takes another look.
Entercom has pushed back against Stolz’s attempt to insert himself into the case, part of what it terms a “long history of baseless harassment” of the company dating back to 1996. That’s when Stolz changed his mind about his $25 million deal to sell KWOD, Sacramento (106.5) to Entercom. But the second thoughts came too late. Stolz has lost a series of appeals at the FCC and in various courts to regain control of KWOD and he’s currently challenging the agency’s approval of the transfer in court.
Meanwhile, by turning in the KDND license, Entercom now only needs to find buyers for three FMs in the Sacramento market as part of its merger with CBS Radio. Entercom hasn’t identified which stations it plans to spin off.