Debunking The Myth Of Minot


(By Jay Meyers) Few things in this world tick me off more than when I read some commentary from someone with zero knowledge about the urban myth of Minot. Franklin Raff’s article on the Radio Ink website Tuesday used false information as fact, and further shows a clear lack of understanding of the current Main Studio Rule. He also makes another false statement that two companies own half of all radio stations. There are over 15,000 radio stations licensed in the U.S. The two top companies in terms of number of radio stations own less than 8% of that number. I’d be willing to bet that the two top hamburger franchises own far more than 8% of all the hamburger joints in the country.

Let’s discuss Minot first. At the time of the incident, I was the Senior Vice President at Clear Channel overseeing a sixteen-state territory called the Plains/Northwest and Minot was in my area of responsibility.

Here are the Minot facts. The Minot radio stations were manned 24 hours a day. In fact, during this period of time (Randy Michaels was still running Clear Channel), it was policy that there needed to be someone in all of our buildings 24/7. The issue in Minot was two fold. First, when we moved into a new facility and sent out notices to all local authorities with both daytime and after-hours contact numbers (over a year before the incident), the Minot police did not update their records and had old phone numbers in their files.

When they got disconnects on both numbers, including the after-hours private number, they dialed information, got the switchboard number and dialed that. Let me ask you a question. How many switchboard numbers are answered after hours, at any company, regardless of their business? Did you have your switchboard answered after midnight at Radio Ink?

Compounding the police error, despite having it for more than a year, the local police never installed their EAS system which would have enabled them to send out an alert directly, and that was despite the fact that the local Clear Channel staff called regularly to ask if they needed any help in understanding how to operate it. Rick Stensby, one of the best managers I’ve ever had, was the market manager in Minot and I feel for him every time this story comes up. He was the consummate small-market broadcaster, on all the boards, the Chamber of Commerce, you name it, he was there. He took the responsibility of owning all the radio stations in town seriously. Every time some yahoo with no real knowledge brings up this FALSE urban legend, I feel sorry for Rick and the people who worked for him.

Now, as to the lack of knowledge regarding the Main Studio Rule. The FCC requirements currently for a main studio is that you have two employees, one of whom must be a manager and spend most of their time at the studio, have the capability of broadcasting from the location and be accessible during “regular business hours.” That’s it. That is what the FCC is proposing to eliminate. Mr. Raff longs for the old days, with each station owned individually as another business on Main Street along with the five and dime and the malt shop. That world no longer exists and in tough economic times, to put the burden of cost on broadcasters to maintain a main studio that exists for no other reason than to comply with FCC rules is truly idiotic. It’s head-in-the-sand thinking. Think about this. If the false urban legend of Minot was actually true, all of the stations would have been in full compliance with the FCC main studio rules.

A similar situation regarding old rules has happened over the last few years where the FCC has begun relaxing the foreign ownership rules. These rules dated back to the inception of the FCC in 1933, a time when there was considerable concern that foreign powers could take over the only electronic media that existed and broadcast propaganda to the American people. As last year’s election showed, control of electronic media is not necessary to spread propaganda throughout the country.

We all should be applauding Commissioner Pai’s focus on eliminating archaic rules. Most of them are from the 1930s, a time when my note to you might have taken a week to arrive via U.S. Mail, when the average person barely ventured two miles from their home in their daily life (including work) and rarely outside of their local community. It was a time when local radio stations were the relatively “new technology” and their presence in the local community served a distinct purpose. In the world we live in today, where hopping in the car and driving 60 miles for a shopping trip is no big deal, where many people work in their virtual office, hundreds, even thousands of miles from the company office, exactly what purpose does a “main studio” serve other than to put a strain on the resources of broadcasters trying to make a living. And I’m not talking just iHeart here. Many smaller broadcasters who own clusters in a region could do more to serve their local communities without the burden of this useless cost.

Word has just come out that the FCC has voted 3-2 to abolish the rule. My only question is what could the two dissenters have been thinking? We didn’t have to wait until the publication of a daily FCC docket three days later to find out the information, it was available to us immediately via the technology that exists today. It’s time for a set of rules and regulations that are reflective of the times we live in.

Local radio is a content issue and not a location issue. We no longer live in a world where you hop in your 57 Chevy and drive out to the local radio station to visit with Wolfman Jack. And Mr. Raff, the true tragedy of Minot is that people like you keep this false urban myth alive, hurting the true local broadcasters who were on the job doing their job serving their local community.

Jay Meyers is President and CEO of Broadcast Management and Technology and can be reached at [email protected]


  1. Bravo Jay!

    Over the years, I’ve found myself correcting others on this very topic; more often than not with other insutry folk when its learned that I spent a number of my years programming a Clear Channel cluster, albeit in a market far from Minot. Part of my mission here in Michigan now is bringing local Emergency Managers and Broadcasters together, so the EMs can know all the things they can (and cannot) use EAS for and how to do it. Broadcasters are here to help.

  2. I am a local owner of a 5kw am station in Marion Il. as you know Jay. I agree. not sure the local studio rulke will benefit me, as I have local people that come and do weekend shows and need local access to the studio. It is its building since 1955, where the transmitter is and I want to keep it there as long as I can, but if need be i could hub it out of St. Louis now.

  3. Jay makes sense of most of it-and the real issue is communication. Since the days of Conelrad, broadcast radio has tried to be the pivotal point of emergency communications. EBS, EAS and all other systems are still confusing and not understood by most civic officials. The community I live in was ravaged by wildfires in 2003. Those who evacuated were alerted by police officers driving through neighborhoods. I don’t recall one EAS alert-and I was on the air when it hit. It’s my guess that local EAS programs are poorly planned, poorly populated and rarely executed much the same as Minot. In San Diego, the monthly EAS alerts are voiced by the morning news anchor from the main EAS station. In Los Angeles, I’ve heard the police chief voice alerts. That’s a communication problem between radio and the local communities. Every small to large city in the USA should have some kind of disaster plan that includes mass communication -a plan that’s workable and easy to administer. Can someone adequately agree that the current EAS system is such? Other than that, radio has content issues. Manhattan or Mars…if the programming isn’t compelling, no one will listen. I was working with Jay at Clear Channel when technology started changing. Randy’s vision wasn’t to eliminate was to offer tools to enhance the product in all markets. Once Randy left, the bleeding started. At one point I was on up to six stations a day in the chain-and each show was unique to each market. Now, the stations select the format they’ll run…and are stuck with the generic talent that comes with it. That’s a problem. But let’s not blame the “studio or no studio” rule for these troubles. One could argue that owning a license to serve a community comes with a cost. The companies that trim those costs to drive 80% to the bottom line will find that someone will build that better station soon-and leave them in the dust.

  4. From 2006-August 2008 I managed stations in Burlington Vermont. We had to have an office in Middlebury because of the studio rules. We paid a lady to sit there 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and the 2 1/2 years I was there not one person ever went into that office. A complete waste of money. It’s a rule that should have gone away years ago. As usual Jay is right.

  5. I live in a small town, Pahrump Nevada, where radio is still relevant and successful because of its relevance. I know the owner of the local station, in fact I’ll be running the board for her while she’s out running one of her holiday food drives in the coming weeks. We’re an hour outside of Las Vegas in a little desert town of 40,000 (depending on how many ‘snowbirds’ are parked on the night that you measure). The station has no employees, but Karen (the owner) makes up for that with her tireless efforts. Everybody in town knows her and she knows everybody, it’s that kind of place. Politicians or potential ones know and may fear her. Famous talk host Art Bell built the station and ran it for a time, but Karen, who now owns it, really “gets” both the opportunity that she had and the responsibility that it brings. There is a large mountain range between us and Las Vegas and we see the glow from the lights of Las Vegas at night behind the silhouette of those mountains. That is what makes this place “country” rather than city. It’s a poor area, but with good citizens who are loyal to Pahrump and each other. You have to be a little eccentric to live in the desert. Because we’re close to a large city, broadcast entrepreneurs use our town as a way to create “move in” stations through complex and clever schemes that take years to complete. This is clearly important because Las Vegas just doesn’t have enough failing radio stations! CBS even has a station licensed to Pahrump, and while it’s a very good station, it really doesn’t serve Pahrump. I doubt that any of its employees have ever been here. There’s no advertising for here and certainly no news or public affairs for here. There are several out of town outfits that are playing the move in game right now and they are certainly creative, but nobody actually gives a hoot about Pahrump, except… Karen.

    While I appreciate what Jay says, I’m still not entirely convinced. While the rule can and has been gamed for years, a message is being sent that localness isn’t important to the commission. Most of these stations have only localness to offer listeners as a benefit, and without it they fail. Failures of this type can be absorbed (for a while) by big companies, but there is little or no commitment to the city supposed “served”. A difference between Pahrump and Minot is that while Police departments often don’t have relationships with stations or know about how or when to use EAS, in Pahrump, the owner, who wears the hats of owner, program director, music director, promotions gopher and every other station role is known by the community. The police here call her at home. Listeners can get actually get through at any hour (and do!). This isn’t about “meeting minimum requirements” of some rule, this is about actually serving your city of license, neighbors and customers. If the FCC didn’t exist, Karen would still be doing what she’s doing, from her studio in Pahrump.

    Karen has been looking for somebody to do play by play for the local high school team (Go Trojans!) for several years without success so far.

  6. The Myth of Minot is irrelevant to the overall issue. The real myth is that conglomerates will benefit the health of stations. How has that worked out for your former employer Clear Channel/iHeart? For the sake of avoiding tedium, let’s look at your final premise that local radio is a content issue and not a location issue; cost-cutting has completely superseded investment in local content. We should really debunk the corporate radio myth that is spun by investment bankers and corporate shills such as yourself. Corporate radio has been abysmal for the industry and the real losers are the communities they are supposed to serve.

  7. With the stations manned “24/7,” wondering why the person on duty that night in Minot didn’t answer calls coming in from the public asking about the situation? That would’ve put in motion the stations’ emergency coverage plan.

    Local radio often learns about local issues from listeners ahead of local law enforcement’s awareness.

    • He did. It was all covered in the testimony to Congress over ten years ago. That’s why there were no fines and why the stations are still owned by iHeart all these years later. If rules had been broken, don’t you think a fine would have been levied? There is nothing in the Main Studio Rule or any other FCC rules that require a station be manned 24/7.

  8. Now don’t that dog my cat? Local Radio died when such companies like Clear Channel and all the rest were allowed to become the normal. Good radio died. Local talent dried up and the local radio jock left the studio. Maybe radio needs a full reboot. Lets get LIVE radio back in the studio, lets see real teaching radio skills schools start back up, and lets see a day when the who on air is the same who in the studio.
    The choice is in the mirror and the horizon, sees a day when radio is all online, not on the air.

  9. If there’s one thing consistent about radio is that it never learns from previous mistakes. The rules are always archaic when they stand in the way of cutting costs to cover up mistakes made when the last set of rules were deemed archaic and removed.

    The end game is a national network of centralized radio stations with the same programming structure of Sirius XM. The bean counters will love it, and radio will lose the one benefit it doesn’t have to lose. Localism.

  10. Thank you Jay! Well said. I sure wish that Mark had taken my advice to correct the record about Minot during his testimony on the Hill. He said it was just a single incident and the false reports would fade away if he didn’t make a big deal out of it. The industry has been clubbed with this “urban legend” ever since.


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