28 November 2009

FCC Petition to Deny Sale of KFUO-FM Filed

A group of citizens have filed a "Petition to Deny" the sale of KFUO-FM, Classic 99 (99.1FM), from The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) to Gateway Creative Broadcasting, Inc., with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The station, Classic 99, is St. Louis' only Classical music format station, having been owned and operated by the LCMS since it went on the air in 1948, the FM station which has been on the air the longest time in St. Louis. It is a Class C0, 100-kilowatt FM signal that can be heard for around 100 miles in all directions away from St. Louis.

Gateway Creative Broadcasting, Inc., is a locally-0wned group which operates two radio stations in Missouri, one licensed to Bowling Green and another in Potosi, both which play Contemporary Christian Music as "JoyFM". The group plans to take over 99.1 FM and air the CCM format, thus eliminating the only classical music on the radio in the metropolitan St. Louis area. Documents filed with the FCC show that an attempt to secure an HD-2 channel as part of the sale of the radio station exists, but is not etched in stone and can be set aside without reservation.

The Radio Arts Board of Classic 99 had hoped to be given a chance to purchase KFUO-FM from the LCMS, but the LCMS Board of Directors put one of their own, attorney Kermit A. Brashear, a member of the LCMS Board of Directors, to be the sole negotiator in the sales process. He remains uncooperative with other members of the LCMS who have petitioned him to discuss the situation. Brashear has made statements that he is the only person allowed to comment upon the sale of KFUO-FM, and in so doing, has made almost no statement regarding the sale which can be construed as helpful to the media covering the sale. In short, Brashear has run blocker for himself and only given anyone squat.

There have been rumors that someone in the LCMS may file a lawsuit to block the sale of the radio station. Meanwhile, the LCMS chairman has made at least one statement which is in conflict with Brashear's public statements. Also, there are charges that Brashear and the treasurer of the LCMS, Thomas Kuchta, who maintains that the process was open to the public and not secretive as has been stated by members of the Board of Directors, have conspired to sell the radio station quickly, and not sell the license at a time when the assets of the station would bring in much more money. The market for a 100-kilowatt radio station is down considerably from ten years ago, and even five years ago a station like Classic 99 could have been sold for nearly twice the $18-million price given in the filed public papers. Given the current economy, radio station prices are at a low, with an expected increase in prices within the next three to four years. Local radio professionals have commented that this is NOT the time to be selling a station off as an asset. They say now is the time to hold off on a sale, or to be the buyer.

Earlier, the LCMS board had voted to sell the station, then asked Brashear to represent them in a process which would give all potential buyers a chance to negotiate. Brashear held a short session with the Radio Arts Board and then excluded them in all subsequent negotiations after a brief meeting with the members of Gateway Creative Broadcasting.

Those who filed the petition to deny the sale allege Brashear is involved in an act of collusion, and thus denied entities in the community an opportunity to bid through a selection process. And some members of the LCMS agree with that assessment, having commented on blogs and through some correspondence with reporters in St. Louis.

The citizen petitioners is asking that anyone who wants to file their own comments with the FCC do so quickly. The deadline for comments to the FCC is Monday, November 30, 2009.

The email address for the FCC is fccinfo@fcc.gov

Anyone who wishes to affix their names on the submitted petition to deny is asked to contact buzzmusicmedia@gmail.com with their name and address.

The mailing address for the FCC is:

Federal Communications Commission
445 12 Street SW
Washington, DC 20554