22 February 2010

Paperwork Shows LCMS Obscured Sale of KFUO-FM

FACT AND OPINION:
A News St. Louis Column


In February 2009, the board of directors for the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) met and authorized the sale of their FM station, KFUO-FM. In the months after that, it is clear that the LCMS put one person from their board, Kermit Brashear, an Omaha lawyer of some repute, in charge of negotiating the sale of the station. Brashear struck a deal with a group of Christian broadcasters known as Gateway Creative Broadcasting, who operate two small "rim-shot" stations in Missouri known as JoyFM, and announced the sale of KFUO-FM on the air at JoyFM before the staff at KFUO-FM were told about the transaction. Soon thereafter, several parties in the St. Louis area filed comments with the FCC, including a prominent "Petition to Deny" from a group which has been seeking to stop the sale of the only classical music station in the region.

Recently, several pieces of paper related to one of the "Petition to Deny" filings sent to the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, ended up in the hands of News St. Louis. It is interesting reading at worst. The man who is behind that particular petition is Robert Duesenberg, whose group is called Committee to Save KFUO-FM. This group has now filed papers bringing into question the validity of the words used by the leaders of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod in the proposed sale of their FM radio station in St. Louis to Gateway Creative Broadcasting, aka JoyFM. In short, the papers Duesenberg's group sent to the FCC show a potential problem for the LCMS. The LCMS may find itself in court over what it has said "on the record" about the sale of the station.

In these recent "Committee to Save KFUO-FM" filings sent to the FCC and the parties involved in the pending transaction, Duesenberg filed a personal exhibit stating that he has on several occasions requested papers from the LCMS --- a church body of whom Duesenberg is a "member in good standing" --- and has been denied access to those papers. It is unclear if the FCC would address his claims, but there was more to the filing which brings into light how far the LCMS may have been willing to go to obscure a potential sale to a party OTHER than Gateway Creative/JoyFM.

A second exhibit was sent in this most recent filing from Robert Cox who is a long-time broadcaster and has spent the past fifteen years as a professional radio broker --- the equivalent of a realtor for radio stations and other broadcast operations. Cox makes clear that he and at least one other member of his firm, Cox and Cox, were in contact with the LCMS and had requested information on the availability of the station on the open market over a period of several months in 2009. Cox had buyers who wanted to know if the station was up for sale --- the LCMS repeatedly denied it was selling KFUO-FM or misrepresented the fact that the LCMS board of directors had authorized the sale of KFUO-FM.

Cox found out about the sale of KFUO-FM the way most people in St. Louis did --- reading about it after the announcement.

This is how the LCMS showed it was professional to a professional? By denying the sale to a professional radio broker virtually all the way to the moment it was announced?

One can think what they want about how a sale of this magnitude (losing a cultural icon in Classic 99, a past Marconi-award winning classical music station) becomes an issue across the metropolitan St. Louis area in newspapers and online publications. However this appears to be the LCMS involved directly in certain collusion. A professional broadcasting broker was seeking information about the station sale and either received misinformation or direct lies by the selling party (LCMS) --- showing collusion in an even more obvious way than was previously charged by a "Citizens" petition to deny the sale.

Although this paperwork is likely to be opened up by someone at the FCC, the sale of KFUO-FM is probably too far in the works to be stopped unless there has been a lawsuit filed against the parties involved. Most people involved in broadcasting in St. Louis think the sale will be finalized in March. Then there will be a short period of time when the two parties will negotiate the transfer of the signal of 99.1FM from the LCMS to JoyFM, followed by the end of "Classic 99, KFUO-FM" and the beginning of a new JoyFM on 99.1FM in St. Louis.


An interesting aside to the most recent filings --- the broker, Cox, is also Lutheran.

34 comments:

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