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Saga Communications Files to Deny WREN’s FCC License Renewal!

Saga Communications has petitioned for the denial of WREN’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license renewal.  For the most part they have thrown anything that they can think of against a wall hoping that something will stick.  And a a little may in the end although for the most part this filing is about a very large monopolist broadcaster who hates competition.

Saga owns approximately 83 radio stations and numerous FM translators many of which essentially operate as radio stations.  In Charlottesville they own WINA, 3WV, WQMZ, WCVL, WCNR, WVAX, and two FM translators.  They claim to ‘believe in local media’ but that is only if they own it, it would seem.  These are all full power, commercial stations with power levels ranging from 1 – 50 kW.  There is only one other commercial radio broadcast group in Charlottesville.  They also own six radio stations and multiple FM translators.

WREN is indirectly associated with WXRK, WPVC, WVAI, and WKMZ in Ruckersville.  The four Charlottesville stations share a common studio location and a transmitter site on Rio Road.  We also share a computer network, antenna system, Emergency Alert System equipment, and various office equipment.  This is strictly an arrangement to share expenses.  There is also a legal and independent group, Experience Media that serves primarily as a clearinghouse for commission payments to a small group of part time, independent underwriting sales representatives.  The stations are all completely independently owned and operated.  Unlike Saga, WREN is limited to just 100 Watts of power.  We are also non-commercial and truly locally owned and operated.  WREN is a volunteer operated station with only one, small, part time paid position.  We don’t make any money from our operation.  We simply really do believe in local radio!

Saga Communications has a record of filing petitions similar to this one against small commercial and non-commercial radio stations in many of their markets.  Part of their goal is simply to drain them monetarily in legal fees.  That is where we do need your help!  While WREN all but certainly will remain on the air in Charlottesville for many years to come, the cost to fight this petition will be somewhere between $3,000 to $4,000 dollars.  It would be more than that save for helpful and sympathetic attorneys who are handling our filings with the FCC.

We know that we always ask for money albeit in a very low key way but we really could use your help.  Any donation will be appreciated!  For donations of $35 or more, we will give you a just WREN t-shirt, WREN pens, and bumper stickers too!

For the record, the Saga Communications FCC license renewal denial filing against WREN and the other Virginia Radio Coop related stations is a available from the FCC at this LINK.

We will post a link to our reply once it is available.

Thank you for reading this post!




8 thoughts on “Saga Communications Files to Deny WREN’s FCC License Renewal!

  • March 2, 2020 at 9:17 am
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    We recently discovered your station and now both my husband and I have the button set for your station in our car. When we want music, you are what we listen to. No one , and I mean, NO ONE , does what you do. We will send $35 to help you. But also, you might want to just do a few ads to keep afloat . I certainly would not mind if it kept you on the air. Also lI’ve your announcers , such great voices , and interesting comments . Thanks for being there ! !!

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    • July 14, 2020 at 2:53 am
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      Thank you very much!!

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  • June 22, 2020 at 10:38 am
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    How about an update on FCC case!

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    • July 14, 2020 at 2:52 am
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      Please see our reply on the “SAGA” page. Thanks for your support and interest! Jon

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  • July 6, 2020 at 9:59 pm
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    This has been going on for a while. Where do things stand currently (early July 2020). I truly hope things are looking up!

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    • July 14, 2020 at 2:50 am
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      Hi!

      This is a quick note (OK, I now realize, NOT that quick!) regarding WREN’s Saga with Saga Communications (Tidewater Communications division trading locally as Charlottesville Radio Group – WINA, WQMZ, 3WV, WCVL, 1450 AM sports, and “The Corner”) challenge to WREN’s FCC license renewal. We filed an extensive response to a large variety of questions posed to us by the FCC at the end of February. Basically, COVID-19 put much on hold after that.

      We have made two changes since that time. One was to add talk programming to Sunday morning and a couple of hours on late Sunday night. There is no true legal requirement for this but our FCC attorney recommended this. The FCC does generally look upon this type of programming favorably still, we are told. We have two local shows now plus a variety of public radio shows which are quite good in my opinion as well. The other was to change our underwriting announcements some. While we followed the basic FCC quantified requirements for underwriting versus advertising which include no prices, no adjectives, and no calls to action, there is also something called incentive to buy which seemingly includes just about everything except a businesses slogan. I do use the term “seemingly” as this is something that the FCC describes in broad strokes and for which it isn’t that explicit. We have read many articles and FCC memos. Many area non-comm stations have underwriting announcements that don’t sound much different than ours did until very recently. Except for the stations which we share space and resources with, those stations are no under the microscope though. We are now erring on the side of what we now believe to be caution which is also the advice of our attorney.

      That is where things stand for now and, I suspect, where they may remain for a notable period depending on the COVID-19 trajectory which unfortunately doesn’t look that great at this time, unfortunately.

      What SAGA wants is our and the other stations frequencies. They can use them for what are called “translators”. The FCC accepts various types of applications in “windows”. For example, there have only been two application windows for LPFM (Low Power FM) stations of which WREN (-LP) is one. Those were in 2002 and 2013. If our application should be denied, they would possibly be able to buy our frequency in a future auction. It is ironic but they could actually operate our 97.9 frequency at about the same power as most Charlottesville FM stations from Carter Mountain. If you own a “full power” FM station using HD radio, your are allowed to re-transmit (or “translate”) up to about five program feeds. WQMZ has HD radio so as you may imagine the monetary value for SAGA is considerable. It is unfair and, in my opinion, SAGA’s morals are low even for a mega-broadcaster (they own about 125 stations plus translators), but who said that the world and politics in particular are all that fair!

      SAGA already has one possible win. 94.7 WPVC whose now unused studio is next door to WREN’s studio tossed in the towel and surrendered their license on June 17 rather than continue to pay lawyer bills. They we Virginia’s sole progressive talk station and also provided Spanish language and other music programming. They were also hit below the belt with a barrage of calls to their clients at the same time that the SAGA complaint was filed last August. Those calls claimed that they were behind the vandalism of Confederate statues which was entirely untrue. They also had staff receive threats which was another significant issue.

      We at WREN will NOT be giving up the fight. We consider ourselves to be “Bailey Federal”! We are running a small but real radio station. SAGA meanwhile has been firing many staff members locally and nationally. While COVID-19 is certainly an issue, they also dropped giving dividends to their stock holders, Per their CEO, this is being done as they see buying opportunities in the near future. While not stated, that opportunity is, of course COVID related. Locally, they have given about a third of their staff pink slips including the popular big greasy breakfast morning host on 3WV. He had been an employee since about 1987!

      By the way, the FCC is going to the Supreme Court to fight FOR allowing one broadcaster to own all of the commercial radio stations in markets 76 and up (which includes Charlottesville). Should that happen, I do suspect that Charlottesville will represent one of those “buying opportunities”. That is sad and not just for Charlottesville.

      Thanks for your interest and support!

      Best Wishes,

      Jon Hall, GM WREN Radio

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  • October 28, 2020 at 12:04 pm
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    You are the first oldies station that I can listen to outside of Philly. I am transported by your selection and will donate after the first.
    Thank you for fighting on and I hope many will join you.

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    • November 25, 2020 at 1:08 am
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      Barbara, I apologize for the delay in getting back to you. Your nice comment is very much appreciated! Thanks! Best Wishes, Jon Hall

      Reply

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