This darkness will be no old friend.
A group of three FMs and an AM with an FM translator serving the ski resort communities near Jackson, Wyo., could be silent by Thursday morning — or not.
That’s because the decision to take the stations off the air won’t come from their owner. Rather, the company calling the shots, the stations’ owner tells RBR + TVBR, is American Tower Corp.
News of the possible on-air silence to Class C1 KJAX-FM 93.5, Class C1 KMTN-FM 96.9, Class C KZJH-FM 95.3, Class C 1kw KSGT-AM 1340 and the FM translator for KSGT — K242BU at 96.3 MHz — first surfaced in the Jackson Hole News & Guide. The newspaper noted that the stations’ owner, Rich Broadcasting, owes some $500,000 in tower lease fees to American Tower.
Rich is contesting these fees, but three years of negotiations have gone nowhere, company owner Richard Mecham told the newspaper.
In an interview with RBR + TVBR on Wednesday afternoon, DeLyn Hendricks, who manages the Rich stations in the Jackson Hole area, confirmed that as of 3:15pm Mountain the stations remained on the air. She said that she and Mecham did not know if the signals were set to go off the air at a certain time, and that the decision was solely up to American Tower.
An American Tower spokesperson responded to RBR + TVBR‘s query seeking comment late Wednesday. They take no blame for any actions concerning these stations.
“American Tower has currently not evicted Rich Broadcasting from any of its sites in Wyoming or elsewhere. Should the company’s radio stations in Jackson go silent this evening, it would not be a result of any action American Tower has taken. Like many organizations that are creditors and involved in Rich Broadcasting’s bankruptcy, American Tower has been working with Rich Broadcasting for several years in order to seek resolution to this matter without success. We must rely on the bankruptcy courts – and the Wyoming state courts – to adjudicate on this issue and reach an appropriate resolution for both parties. We recognize that these stations provide valuable news and entertainment to its viewers and value to its advertisers, and we are confident that there is a solution to be reached which would allow Rich Broadcasting to remain American Tower’s tenant and continue to meet the community’s needs.”
Thus, there are greatly conflicting viewpoints regarding the health of Rich Broadcasting that factor in to these stations’ ability to broadcast.
A big reason for Rich’s refusal to fork over a half-million dollars in delinquent payments to American Tower is its Chapter 11 reorganization in a Utah court, which was finalized in fall 2016.
Mecham believes that American Tower’s contract with Rich Broadcasting spells out fees that are “reasonable and commensurate with the uses and occupancy of the facilities and services provided” and “consistent with, and not in excess of, other fees for similar facilities.”
Given Rich’s financial situation, he’s of the belief that a reasonable and commensurate fee is $150,000.
To boost his fight, Mecham did a little research to see what the tower fees were for other markets in the area. Without taking into account terrain, or the fact that Rich’s towers sit on National Forest property, he found stations paying as little as $500 a month in tower lease payments. In Boise, Idaho, $2,000 monthly lease payments were seen.
Rich’s agreement with American Tower calls for monthly tower lease payments of $3,000 a month for KMTN, $3,000 a month for KZJH, and $750 a month for KJAX.
Mecham tells the Jackson Hole News & Guide his company has not heard from American Tower since January.