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Radio Conglomerate with stations in GR files for bankruptcy

March 6, 2010

Earlier this week it was announced that Regent Communications, the 11th largest radio conglomerate in the US, has filed for bankruptcy. The Grand Rapids Press reported on Monday that filing for bankruptcy will cause restructuring of the company.

Regent Communications owns five radio stations in the Grand Rapids market – WLHT-FM (95.7), WGRD-FM (97.9), WTRV-FM (100.5), WFGR-FM (98.7) and WNWZ 1410 AM. The Press article stated, “Day-to-day operations will continue without interruption and no changes will be made to senior leadership.” So, senior leadership will not be affected, but what does this restructuring mean for on air staff and other non-management workers?

According to the Future of Music Coalition, there has been a well-documented trend that as media ownership is consolidated and restructured that local radio stations have downsized their staff. The major consolidation in radio ownership began in 1996 after the Federal Communications Commission deregulated media ownership rules with the passing of the Telecom Act. Radio consolidation and restructuring continues to impact the radio broadcasting market, as is evidenced in the 2009 State of the Media report.

Like the Press article’s focus on Regent Communication’s ability to operate is framed as purely as an economic issue, an article on Media Daily News looks primarily at the radio company’s stock value.

Unfortunately, readers of the Grand Rapids Press are not informed about what the bankruptcy of Regent Communications means in terms of radio programming in Grand Rapids. Very little of the programming on Regent’s 5 area radio stations has any local focus. There are no local news programs, but there are syndicated shows like Bob & Tom. This is the failure of the news coverage on this issue in that it does not raise issues about how Regent’s radio stations are serving the public interest of West Michigan.

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