Pending approval by the Federal Communications Commission, Cumulus, the second largest U.S. radio broadcasting company, will take ownership of KFRU-AM, KBXR-FM, KOQL-FM, KPLA-FM, KBBM-FM, KLIK-AM and KJMO-FM by the end of the year. Cumulus will begin operating the stations immediately under a local marketing agreement with Premier.
Dave Baugher, president of Premier, said that independent radio operators are at a disadvantage against larger companies like Cumulus and Clear Channel, which owns the largest group of radio stations in the country.
“Now is the time to preempt that concern,” he said. “Our industry is consolidating.”
Baugher said Cumulus, which has been buying stations in mostly mid-sized markets since 1997, has a reputation for granting its local stations a large measure of autonomy.
Mike Bavely, Cumulus’ controller, said the company’s objectives for the Columbia and Jefferson City stations will be “live and local” programming. The company will not voice-track, meaning it will not take programming from syndications and larger programmers and “pretend it is local,” he said.
Though the company may carry syndicated programming during evening hours, Bavely said that during key morning and daytime hours the stations will use local personalities.
“These (stations) match our marketing objectives,” Bavely said.
Last August, Premier took over 100.1 FM, which had been previously owned by Contemporary Media Inc. Premier kept the station’s original name, “The Buzz,” and had hoped to make it a top station within the next year.
Baugher said that Cumulus plans no changes to the stations’ programming line-ups, nor does he anticipate any staffing changes once the purchase is complete.
“Every one of our people will be with Cumulus,” Baugher said.
In addition to the radio stations, Premier owns several print publications, including the Columbia Business Times, the Columbia Senior Times and ColumbiaMO.com. None of those publications are affected by the Cumulus deal.
After the ownership transfer has been made, Cumulus will own and operate 301 radio stations in 61 mid-size U.S. markets, according to a media release.
Ron Covert, vice president of Zimmer Radio Group, which owns nine radio stations in Columbia and Jefferson City, said it will be a challenge for Cumulus to uphold Premier’s customer-service standards.
“I hate to see Premier leave (the radio market),” he said.