In 1986, Gwen Guthrie had a huge R&B and U.K. No. 5 hit with “Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On but the Rent.”
Today, that seems to be the best explanation for quite possibly the worst situation any owner of a broadcast media property could face: the loss of their over-the-air home.
For San Diego-based Broadcast Company of the Americas, it’s now happened twice in five months, putting its entire operations in jeopardy.
Just before Noon Pacific on Wednesday (4/10), the owner of XEPRS-AM 1090 in Rosarito, Baja California — a Mexican “border blaster” with a 50kw blowtorch signal giving it city-grade coverage from Tijuana up the California coast to San Diego, Los Angeles, Oxnard-Ventura, and Santa Barbara — pulled the plug on BCA’s Sports Talk programming, billed as “The Mighty 1090.”
In its place: A simulcast of Mexican Adult Hits KJAV-FM “Ultra 104.9” from McAllen-Brownsville, Tex., a Nucleo Radio Monterrey brand serving the market. At 9:30am Wednesday, Duncan Dhu 1980s-era smash “En Algún Lugar” could be heard following Poison’s “Fallen Angel.”
Air talent at the Mighty 1090 scrambled to figure out what to do next. Morning hosts Ben Higgins and Steve Woods shared on Twitter that they would be hosting their Thursday program, available via the station’s App and live streaming audio, not impacted by XEPRS’s sudden loss of BCA’s programming.
Ben and Woods addressed the XEPRS issue this morning, and Higgins and Woods got emotional. “If you’re listening, you’ve gone at least to the step of finding us perhaps in a way you don’t usually do,” one of the hosts noted. “Maybe you always listen on the app. Maybe you always listen online. But maybe this is the first time today you are doing that, and if that’s the case, and you went to our 1090 radio signal and you didn’t find us, you took the trouble to either download the app or go to TuneIn or however you’re finding us, thank you so much.”
Saying that it meant the world to the show’s hosts, the host explained, “That is how this radio station is going to survive what is hopefully a momentary little blip, a minor setback — whatever you want to call it — involving our Mexican transmitter lease that went up in smoke yesterday at about 11:45 in the morning.”
It was unexpected to most Mighty 1090 staff, the host added. But, the hosts made a pact to stay together, noting that the loss of XEPRS is “not goodbye” for The Mighty 1090.
San Diego Gulls minor-league hockey was impacted; Twitter feeds shared a link to an online audio feed of Wednesday evening’s game.
With a pledge to work hard and to continue to do great things “on the air,” the lack of an over-the-air home for The Mighty 1090 could be ultimately devastating.
That’s what happened to BCA-owned Adult Hits sibling XHPRS-FM 105.7.
On December 12, 2018, BCA lost control of the signal, which it used for its “Max FM” programming. In its place was an eclectic assortment of Mexico’s Classic Hits of the 1980s.
Like the situation with XEPRS, BCA was prevented from using XHPRS due to what weekly newspaper San Diego Reader was linked to a delinquency in paying the Mexican licensee its annual transmitter fee.
XHPRS is owned by Jaime Bonilla, a Senador in Baja California Norte closely aligned with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. He is a former owner of heritage Spanish-language KURS-AM 1040 in San Diego, and sold that property in 2016.
According to the Reader, BCA had not paid Bonilla as much as $135,000 per month to use his station; XEPE-AM 1700, an ESPN Radio affiliate operated by BCA, is also owned by Bonilla and it is reportedly airing other programming, too.
XEPRS is owned by Andres Bichara’s Interamericana de Radio S.A. de C.V. According to the Reader, he received $100,000 per month in rent and transmitter fees; BCA fell behind in these payments, too. In December, the Reader noted that Bichara was displeased with his relationship with BCA and would entertain an $11 million offer for the station.
While The Mighty 1090’s staff is adamant on continuing on as an online-only operation until an on-air signal can be restored, Max’s attempt at doing so latest weeks. In a message appearing at www.1057max.com, BCA notes, “From day one, our goal has always been to get back on the air. That remains our hope. We appreciate you and will continue to make every effort possible to get back on the air in the near future.”