The incident that led to the potential license revocation of Entercom CHR “107.9 The End” KDND Sacramento took place nearly a decade ago. The employees responsible for the “Hold Your Wee For a Wii” contest and death of Jennifer Strange have mostly moved on to better jobs following their terminations from KDND. Even if the station’s license is revoked, the CHR format and “End” brand will likely just move to another one of Entercom’s stations in the Sacramento market. So what is really to be gained by revoking the license?
Yes Jennifer Strange died pretty much at the hands of the radio station. Entercom was found guilty in civil court and paid $16.5 million in compensation. No criminal charges were filed against the employees responsible for the contest. Each of the three primary members of the “Morning Rave” are now leading their own morning shows in Charlotte, Wichita, and New York. The Program Director of KDND at the time is now a Regional Vice President for iHeartMedia. If they haven’t suffered for violating company a protocol that lead to the death of someone why again should Entercom lose their license?
In every recent license revocation hearing that’s been held, it hasn’t been one station on the line but rather whether the licensee is fit to hold any license. Michael Rice lost his stations in Columbia MO and Terre Haute IN after being convicted on four counts of sodomy and eight counts of deviate sexual assault on teenaged boys in 1994. After fighting the revocation in the courts it took until 2001 for the stations to go dark. After being put up in subsequent FCC auctions the new licensees for 98.3 in Columbia and 107.5 in Terre Haute have yet to sign-on their new stations. The last revocation hearing was to be held in 2009 for Terry Keith Hammond for misrepresenting himself to the FCC after it became aware that he was a convicted felon prior to his 2002 purchase of 92.9 KBKH Shamrock TX, but Hammond never responded to the order and the FCC deleted his station.
In all of these past circumstances it wasn’t a single station being determined but whether the owner was fit to remain a licensee. How can the agency clearly determine Entercom is not a viable licensee for KDND, but not its dozens of other stations? What would stop Entercom from then acquiring another FM in the Sacramento market to replace KDND following the loss of the license?
The closest situation to the one Entercom finds itself in now was what was then Infinity Broadcasting in 2003 during the peak of the crackdown on indecency following the Janet Jackson Super Bowl incident. After levying a $357,000 fine against the company for the Opie & Anthony “Sex For Sam” incident, commissioner Michael Copps stated that the next time there was an indecency violation a station’s license should go up for a hearing. That never happened as then Infinity owner Viacom paid a blanket $3.5 million settlement over that and other outstanding violations.
Entercom may lose some short-term revenue as KDND advertisers question whether the station will be around in the long-term. In order to squash those issues perhaps the company should move the CHR format to another one of the company’s stations in the Sacramento market and losing one station from their cluster would likely lead to additional layoffs as the company would have less to operate. KDND is currently sixth in the market with a 4.4 share, while sister Hot AC “Star 106.5” KUDL is fifteenth with a 2.4. If the intellectual property of both stations were to be swapped, it would still be FCC facility 65483 whose license would be on the line. If it were KUDL, KKDO, or KXXX would the threatened loss of the license sting as much as it would with the KDND calls still attached?
If anybody were to be hurt by the revocation of the KDND license it would be the listening audience of the Sacramento market as one less option would be available. Jobs would be lost from the station, and Entercom would lose some revenue but with the 107.9 allocation silent in the market for years to come all it will do is hurt the listeners not the people responsible for the death of Jennifer Strange who have moved on to better things.