In this week’s issue… Gleason Media signs off – Big moves at Saga – CBC restores (some) local TV news – Sports talkers retool

By SCOTT FYBUSH

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*If the coronavirus pandemic is a perfect storm of bad circumstances for broadcasters, the eye of that storm this weekend sat on western Maine, where Gleason Media turned off its seven signals at 7:00 Sunday night, leaving an entire region without much local radio for at least the near future.

Dick Gleason, who bought WOXO (92.7 Norway) in 1975 as the first link in his radio empire, died just over a year ago, leaving his wife Kathy and general manager Vic Hodgkins to try to keep the stations running at a time when their part of Maine was in difficult economic straits.

The stations – country “WOXO” on 92.7 and simulcast WRMO (100.7 Mexico), hot AC “Maine’s Big Z” on WEZR (1240 Lewiston)/WPNO (1450 South Paris) plus translators on 105.5 and 96.9, and sports WTME (780 Rumford) – had been up for sale for most of the last year, but hadn’t found a buyer.

Hodgkins told the Sun-Journal in Lewiston that the stations were already suffering from slow payments from advertisers and a drop in revenue, even before the pandemic began shuttering many of the businesses in the Lewiston/Auburn area and the rural areas to the west and north that made up the Gleason group’s sprawling coverage area.

Once it became clear that the virus was going to bring about still more of a decline in ad revenue, Gleason and Hodgkins made the difficult – and quick – decision to shut down operations, making the announcement Wednesday and giving staffers and listeners just five days to say goodbye.

What now? The licenses aren’t being returned to the FCC, as best we can tell, so it’s still possible a buyer might emerge; for now, though, we’re left to wonder if these five stations are just the beginning of a bigger trend of struggling stations succumbing to the economic pressure of the pandemic.

How will broadcasters get through this? We’re trying to answer your questions in a special new series of Top of the Tower podcasts from Fybush Media and RadioInsight. 

Our first installment told you how to make sure your mics and headphones stay sanitary.

On Friday, we talked with Yellowtec’s Jeff Williams about how his iXm recording microphone can put an entire studio right in your hand, especially when your talent can’t be in their regular studios.

Later today, we’ll bring you a conversation with attorney Melodie Virtue about the regulatory and legal questions facing broadcasters right now.

And later this week – how some stations are still keeping ad revenue healthy, plus much more!

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You don't have to stop reading here! Each week's NorthEast Radio Watch is packed full of exclusive, in-depth reporting and analysis from across the nine states and five provinces we've been serving since 1994. You won't find anything like it on any free site - and you can read the rest of this week's column for just $2.99 by clicking on the "Purchase Only" link below. 

Or click here to subscribe and enjoy full access to current NERW and Tower Site of the Week columns and two decades of searchable archives -- for as little as 25 cents per day.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Q on CBC Radio One usually runs from 10am to 11:30.. or Noon depending on the day. So, that would mean they’re giving “The Current” 2 extra hours if it’s running til noon. When they started “The Current” they had it begin just after the 8:30 local news .. instead of 9. That means it’s now a 3 and a half hour long show. Yikes! And scrapping classical music through the midday hours? That’s actually kinda sad. Not everyone in Canada has access to a full-time classical music station like Toronto or Montreal. I’ll bet that decision on “Tempo” is going down worse than the decision on local TV news. Peter Mansbridge said on his “The Bridge” podcast Friday night that he joined the chorus of boos on that.

    • Much of The Current seems to be call ins now, gradually moving across Canada’s time zones.

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