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Printed from the Charlotte Observer - www.CharlotteObserver.com
Posted: Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009

Talk radio station goes off the air

By Mark Washburn
Published in: Business

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Struggling talk radio station WDYT-AM (1220) has gone off the air, the latest victim of an advertising market in free fall.

“Revenues fell below the expense levels,” said Danny Fontana, a Charlotte investment adviser who used to be on rival WBT-AM (1110) and launched WDYT three years ago. “I couldn't see running in the red.”

Fontana assembled investors to buy the station for $950,000 in 2006 from former N.C. lottery commissioner Kevin Geddings, who was later convicted of mail fraud. Its transmitter was moved from Kings Mountain to Gaston County to improve signal strength in Charlotte, but it was still difficult to receive in parts of the core market.

Even with the addition of key syndicated talents like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, WDYT found it hard to crack the market amid the advertising downturn and went through a series of layoffs.

In the most recent Arbitron ratings period, for the fall quarter, the station ranked No. 21 in audience share. That put WDYT on the lower end of the spectrum among major stations in the region.

On Monday, WDYT notified the Federal Communications Commission it had ceased transmitting.

Fontana said his group, CRN Communications, does not intend to give back the station's license. CRN continues to hold it under a 30-day agreement with the FCC, which can be amended for an additional year.

Fontana said CRN was looking at options ranging from selling the station to coming back with a different format.

“I think our format was the right one, but the economic conditions right now are the worst I've ever seen,” he said.

He said the group will continue to look for new financing.

Advertising sales have plummeted for all traditional media, print and broadcast, for more than a year. That's led to cost-cutting moves, including layoffs. Some analysts predict broadcast revenues will decline more than 10 percent this year, led by cuts in the key automotive ad sector.

Mark Washburn: 704-358-5007; mwashburn@charlotteobserver.com

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