Yesterday we brought you a story about how Saga Communications has targeted five Low Power FM radio stations in Virginia. Ed Christian’s company says they are operating as a cluster and breaking the FCC’s rules for LPFM’s. WVAI-LP owner Mike Frind and his attorney Michael Richards says that’s hogwash and Saga is just trying to bully them.
Frind, who answered the telephone himself when we called the station, says he’s confident that he’s operating within the rules and has no idea why Saga CEO Ed Christian is coming after him. “He’s been opposed to LPFM from the get go. Nobody makes decisions for the other stations. We all have our own board of directors.”
One of Saga’s complaints is that the stations are operating as a cluster. Both Frind and his attorney Michael Richards say the five stations are only located in the same building, but are not operating together. They are in the same building to cut down on costs and they operate independently. Richards tells Radio Ink it’s perfectly legitimate to set up a condominium or co-op arrangement. “They are not commonly owned.”
More from Richards: “It’s puzzling if not almost an abuse of the process to try to paint a bunch of stations that do nothing more than co-rent real estate for their operations. It’s not any different than having Clear Channel own a rooftop tower and rent it out to Entercom, Saga and a public radio station. Each station is a separate non-profit educational organization. Part of what Saga is trying to do is claim they are all operating in unison because they economize by splitting the rent.”
There’s a suggestion that getting the LPFM’s into this type of battle may cost them so much money it bankrupts them and pushes them off the air. Richards says that’s the reality of the way the LPFM regulatory system has been structured. “You see this with fights over interference from new translators. You put up enough impediments and you can rapidly deplete an LPFM capacity to get help. There is not enough pro bono help in the world for this.”
The LPFM’s have 30 days to respond to the Saga filing