Clear Channel reels in a Roanoke-Lynchburg FM


The geographically far-flung Roanoke-Lynchburg Arbitron market used to be a second-tier market for the purpose of calculating the local radio station cluster cap. But the attribution of a trio of stations to the market two years ago bumped it into the upper echelon, allowing Clear Channel to retrieve a station parked for the time being in the Aloha Station Trust.

The station is WSNV-FM Salem VA. It is one of three stations that lost grandfather status when Clear Channel was taken over by primarily by equity firms Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee. The other two, WSFF-Vinton VA and WSNZ-FM Lynchburg, will remain with Aloha.

WSNV-FM will rejoin its former cluster mates WJJS-FM Roanoke, WJJX-FM Appomattox, WROV-FM Martinville and WYYD-FM Amherst. Clear Channel has no AM stations in the market.

RBR-TVBR observation: Roanoke-Lynchburg is typical of markets where it was easy to build a relatively large cluster of stations above and beyond the eight station local cap using the signal contour method of calculating size. Stations primarily serving Roanoke often did not overlap stations primarily serving Lynchburg, so under contour rules they did count against one another in terms of the local cap.

Switching to the Arbitron-market method of calculating local caps made contours irrelevant – and it was one of the few proposals of the Michael Powell ownership effort of 2003 that was adopted and put into effect. Cluster built under the contour rules were allowed to exist, but were not allowed to be sold intact – hence the existence of station trusts for groups like Clear Channel undergoing a restructuring.

Ideally, stations are sold out of such trusts, but the current station trading environment has not been kind to those attempting to sell, and as a result, holding companies like Aloha have had an extended lifespan.