June 1996: To Infinity And Beyond

In the first few months following deregulation many deals were made, but June 20, 1996 would be the date of the first major merger of the new era. After rumors persisted for weeks that it was pursuing a marriage with Evergreen Media, Westinghouse Electric, which had acquired CBS in 1995 to bring together two heritage groups who date back nearly to the formation of the radio medium (In Westinghouse’s case they were the first as the first commercial licensee with KDKA Pittsburgh), gobbled up Mel Karmazin’s Infinity Broadcasting for $3.9 billion in cash and stock and the assumption of another $1 billion in debt. The deal gave Westinghouse 83 stations (with 1 FM in Chicago and 3 FMs in Dallas needing to be divested). Mel Karmazin joined the buyer as Chairman/CEO of the radio operat...[Read More]

May 1996: Changes From A Management Perspective

As the radio industry has evolved in the past two decades since the Telecommunications Act, many working in the radio industry have no idea on how different things were before 1996. To help describe the changes to the industry since then I asked Dick Taylor to explain how the role of management has changed. Now Assistant Professor for Western Kentucky University’s School of Journalism & Broadcasting, in 1996 Taylor was General Manager for Spring Communications in Atlantic City NJ overseeing News/Talk 1450 WFPG, AC “Lite Rock 96.9” WFPG-FM and “Country 106.3” WKOE as part of a career as GM or Market Manager that stretched from 1982 until 2010. To understand how the Telecom Act of 1996 was the finale of a process that began back in the 1980s, you need to un...[Read More]

April 1996: Las Vegas Sees Multiple Flips

We continue our month by month recap of the deals and changes that shaped radio in 1996. Acquisitions Sinclair Broadcasting, then and now a mostly Television based operation, made the big splash of the month with the acquisition of River City Broadcasting for $1.2 billion. The deal added 10 TV stations and 34 radio stations to Sinclair’s holdings including clusters in Albuquerque, Buffalo, Greenville, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, St. Louis and Wilkes-Barre plus 1580 KBLA Los Angeles. Evergreen Media purchased Rhythmic CHR “Wild 107.7” KYLD San Francisco from Crescent Communications for $44 million to pair with Hot AC “K101” KIOI and Urban 106.1 KMEL. OmniAmerica swapped Rock 100.7 WMMS and Oldies 105.7 WMJI Cleveland to Nationwide Communications for Hot AC...[Read More]

March 1996: The New Normal

Following the passage of the Communications Act in February 1996 and without a big city format change, March 1996 was quiet in comparison. Sales March began seeing the buy and trade approach to station acquisitions. Entercom briefly entered the New York market purchasing Active Rock “Q104.3” WAXQ from GAF Corp. for $90 million, but then immediately turned around and traded it to Viacom for 1210 KBSG/97.3 KBSG-FM/107.7 KNDD Seattle. EZ Communications swapped their New Orleans cluster of 1450 WBYU/97.1 WEZB/99.5 WRNO to Heritage Media for 1090 KRPM/106.1 KCIN Seattle. That deal would give EZ three Country stations in the Seattle market leading to a format change at one. Infinity Broadcasting made the biggest deal of the month as it acquired Granum Communications’ twelve sta...[Read More]

February 1996: The Floodgates Open While WKTU Shakes Up New York & CHR

On February 8, 1996 President Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 into law leading the the ownership limits we know today. The act raised the ownership limits to a maximum of eight stations (five on one band) in markets with 45 stations or more, seven stations (four on one band) in markets with 30-44 stations, six stations (four on one band) in markets with 15-29 stations, and no more than half (three on one band) in markets with 14 stations or less. While it would take a few months for the FCC to issue rulemakings for the new law of the land (the entire act and subsequent rulemakings can be read here), dealmakers wasted no time to begin consolidating. Sales Looking back it is not much of a surprise that the first group to acquire an eight station cluster was led by Rand...[Read More]

January 1996: Starting The Year That Everything Changed

Next week will be the 20th anniversary of the passing of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 by Congress. With now two decades in the rear view mirror there have been millions of words written on the positives and negatives of the changes brought on by the passage of the bill. Over the course of this year we will look back at 1996, as it took place. We’ll look at the programming changes and deals that paved the way to the radio landscape we know today. And we start with where we were in January 1996. When 1996 began the big news in technology was the reveal of the digital versatile disc. The first DVD’s held 133 minutes of video per side of the disc and players were set to hit the market later in the year starting at $500. The radio industry buzzword was duopoly. A 1992 revamp o...[Read More]