EMF Adds Another FM To Its Family


A dark noncommercial FM serving a small Southern city has just been acquired by the No. 2 licensee of radio stations in the U.S.

It’s one of the lone deals involving a fully licensed radio station to be filed with the Commission this week, capping off one of the slowest periods for transactions so far this year.

To the north of Gasden, Ala., visible from Interstate 59 in Reese City, is the tower for WSGN-FM 91.5 — licensed for 6,300 watts.

WSGN is presently dark. That’s the result of the passage of a motion at the Sept. 12 board meeting of The Alabama Community College System Board of Trustees that allowed Gadsden State Community College the opportunity to sell WSGN.

It became known Friday (10/26) that Educational Media Foundation, the behemoth Christian Contemporary Music noncomm owner led by Mike Novak, is the buyer.

EMF is paying the university $230,000 for WSGN; a 10% deposit has been made, according to an Asset Purchase Agreement dated October 18.

The call letters of WSGN will change at closing, the APA confirms.

Representing Gadsden State Community College as the sole broker in this transaction is Mark Jorgenson of Jorgenson Broadcast Brokerage in Tyron, N.C.

The sale of WSGN marks the official end of a station that operated for more than 40 years. It was a part of the college’s radio-television broadcasting program until 2004, when the program was discontinued.

However, WSGN since 1992 had served as a rebroadcast partner with the University of Alabama’s WBHM-FM 90.3 in Birmingham, which has limited signal penetration of the Gadsden area, located to the northwest of the state’s biggest market.

The operating agreement between WBHM and WSGN ended Sept. 30, at which time WSGN went dark pending its sale.

“We’re sad to say goodbye,” Chuck Holmes, WBHM’s Executive Director and GM, said in a letter to listeners. “It has been a privilege to bring NPR programs, local news and jazz and classical music to the people in the Gadsden area.”

Over the past 18 months, leadership at WBHM and Gadsden State had “extensive discussions” about the future of WSGN.

“Under the terms of our operating agreement, WBHM was offered the chance to bid on the WSGN license,” Holmes said. “Unfortunately, WBHM does not have the resources to match the sale price.”

For NPR listeners, static via WBHM and reception via FM translator W283CM in Fort Payne, Ala., are the lone options now that WSGN is gone.

Like other institutions of higher learning that have opted to part ways with their radio stations in the last 24 months, Gadsden State President Dr. Martha Lavender said selling WSGN “is in the best interest” of the college.

“Because Gadsden State no longer offers courses in radio-television broadcasting, it is not necessary for us to maintain a physical location or continue to accept responsibility for requirements and regulations from the Federal Communications Commission,” she said. “As long as the College holds the license, we are liable for FCC violations and are subject to fines.”

Serving as the college’s legal counsel is John Trent of Putbrese Hunsaker & Trent. As has been standard in all EMF transactions, its legal counsel is Paige Fronabarger of Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP.

RBR+TVBR OBSERVATION: Fourteen years ago, a community college in a small Alabama city cut its budget, and now no longer offers courses in radio-television broadcasting. While the decision to part ways with a training ground for TV can be debated, the decision to sell WSGN following the abandonment of its radio training courses sells bad. Why? “As long as the College holds the license, we are liable for FCC violations and are subject to fines.” That’s the result of poor management and ownership that doesn’t care. Dr. Lavender’s attitude is just deplorable. But, then again, the Alabama Association of Broadcasters, SummitMedia and Cox Media Group could have stepped in and worked with the school in resuscitating its media studies courses. Instead, EMF gets yet another signal for either KLOVE or Air1. Some will grumble. But, hey … Dr. Lavender had a chance and didn’t care. Such attitude will flow to college students, who likely don’t care about radio’s future, either, and get their music from Spotify and YouTube and news from social media. If there’s a lesson learned here, it’s that radio broadcasters should do more than bring students to the Radio Show each year for a learning vacation. A better opportunity would be an integrated in-market program tied to learning, mentorship and, quite frankly, the health of the company in the years ahead. Whose going to run Entercom once David Field attends his last Lollapalooza and buys the Philadelphia Eagles? What happens when Caroline Beasley hangs it up and enjoys a Southwest Florida sunset free of emails and calls from Buzz Knight? We see no one, and it’s the fault of radio’s biggest companies for failing to prepare for its future.