Futures of WCLZ, WCYI, WTOS in limbo

Portland buzz
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  June 6, 2007

Local radio station 98.9 WCLZ is going up for sale, and its future is unknown. The station — which, aside from playing listenable music in general, also hosts (for now) the popular and influential local music show “Greetings from Area Code 207” — is one of 11 stations that parent company Citadel is being forced to put into a trust as a result of a recently approved Citadel-ABC Radio merger.

The merger, through which Citadel will absorb 24 ABC Radio outlets on top of the approximately 220 radio stations it already owns, was approved by federal regulators this spring. However, in its approval, the Federal Communications Commission required that Citadel get rid of WCLZ, WCYI (which simulcasts WCYY up north), and nine other stations that would violate the FCC’s radio ownership rules. The Last Bastion Radio Trust, which lists an address in San Francisco, was created purely to handle the sale of these stations.

It’s unusual to have two radio frequencies up for grabs at all, much less at the same time in one state.
The loss of WCYI (93.9 FM) starting June 12 will reduce the reach of WCYY (94.3 FM), cutting off the central Maine areas where residents would otherwise have no alternative to the rock format of WTOS 105.1. (Except that ’TOS is being sold by Clear Channel, pending FCC approval, to the oddly named Good Radio.TV chain, based in Florida — raising a question about the future of the station and its Battle of the Bands, a big promotional boost to central Maine bands like repeat contest winners — and, this year, BiMPy winners — Dead Season.)

But the sale of WCLZ could have more serious consequences. After all, whomever purchases the station (the FCC encouraged Last Bastion Radio Trust to look for minority and small-business buyers) could keep it the way it is, or change the format entirely — sports talk radio? traditional polka music?

For now, the folks at WCLZ, along with their bosses at Citadel, are staying pretty hush-hush about what’s in store for the frequency and its current employees and programs.

“While in the trust, the station will remain as it is today,” Citadel’s Portland market manager Mike Sambrook tells us in an e-mail. “The format will be the same and the on-air personalities and shows will remain. ... Everyone at the station is very proud of WCLZ’s relationship with local artists, organizations, and local businesses so nothing on the station will change. ...When the trust sells the station another owner will decide the future direction of the station. We really hope that a new owner will understand what a special station WCLZ is for southern Maine.”

Here’s just one example of that local connection: on Wednesday night, WCLZ (and Charlie Gaylord of the “GFAC 207” show and CD collections) will co-host the Maine Tracks CD-release party at SPACE, both to hype the “compilation of Maine alt-country and indie-rock musicians and bands,” and to raise money for the St. Lawrence Arts Center.

Don’t turn that dial — the news is bound to break soon.

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