Intanto, tre frequenze locali in onde medie restano in silenzio.
Local Spanish radio, TV stations go off the air
Churchill Media abruptly pulls the plug Wednesday, citing a steep decline in advertising revenue
BY DIANE DIETZ
Thursday, Dec 31, 2009
Spanish–language radio abruptly left the Lane County airwaves Wednesday as Churchill Media pulled the plug on its three radio and two television stations and announced it was out of business.
Employees learned minutes before the stations were silenced. Listeners and advertisers learned as the news traveled without the help of amplification throughout the afternoon.
“This is the only way that we can communicate to our Spanish language population here in Eugene. I thought they were joking,” said Samuel Recinos, owner of Plaza Latina and an advertiser on the stations. “It’s really bad news, honestly, for the Hispanic community. What’s shocking is there weren’t any warnings. All of the sudden, I turned the radio on and it’s off the air. People don’t even know what’s going on yet.”
About 30,000 Spanish speakers live in Eugene-Springfield and rely on the station, Recinos estimates. For three years, the station sponsored two annual festivals in Springfield that drew as many as 20,000 participants each. “Those will no longer be happening, unfortunately,” company spokeswoman Sadie Dressekie said.
Churchill Media blamed a sharp drop in advertising revenue for the demise of the company, although Dressekie declined to say how much the station has lost. The company was formed in 2004 by Suzanne Arlie, who is also president of the Eugene-based Arlie & Company real estate development firm. Arlie’s projects include Crescent Village in north Eugene.
At its peak in early 2008, Churchill media employed 45 people, maintained offices in Eugene and Wilsonville and had a radio operation in Yakima, Wash., and an additional television station in Salem. Besides local news and commentary, the station offered syndicated programming and Spanish-language sports through ESPN’s Deportes Radio.
“Revenues were good and the network grew fairly quickly. But the world changed for everybody in 2007,” Dressekie said. “The whole of the last year was a challenging year for us. … We’re a victim of just what’s happening all over in the broadcasting industry.”
Seventeen people in Eugene and Wilsonville lost jobs Wednesday when Churchill Media pulled the plug.
Arlie needed to get out of the broadcasting business, Dressekie said. Arlie & Company’s core business is real estate and development, where it must now focus its efforts, she said. “We’re also being challenged in that area, too. We couldn’t continue to split our time and resources between these two businesses.”
The radio broadcasting industry, meanwhile, expects about a 20 percent drop in advertising revenues this year, according to national news reports. “Radio is struggling. Everyone is struggling,” said Tim Gleason, dean of the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication.
The country’s third largest radio broadcasting company, Citadel Broadcasting Corp., filed bankruptcy earlier this week. “It’s a combination of the recession and the changing economic models. Advertisers have so many different ways to reach audiences now. It is increasingly fragmented, and every one of the legacy media channels is struggling,” Gleason said.
Two Oregon radio stations — in Albany and Waldport — threw in the towel in 2009, said Bill Johnstone, president and CEO of the Oregon Association of Broadcasters. But within a few months, buyers materialized and both stations will soon be back on the air, he said.
“In some cases, the station may go off the air but there’s already been a deal or arrangement for somebody to pick up the station. They may go off the air on Tuesday but they may go back on the air the following Tuesday with a different owner,” he said.
In past years, Dressekie said, broadcasters have approached Churchill media with offers to buy one station or another. “We haven’t wanted to break up the network. But now we will sell those off piecemeal,” she said.
Already, Arlie is entertaining offers from buyers who want to convert the Eugene radio station to religious broadcasting or a business news station. A Portland broadcaster is interested in Churchill’s north valley television station, she said.
Recinos said he’s tempted to try to raise money to buy the Eugene radio station because of its important link to his customers and for general communications within the local Spanish-speaking community. “It’s crossing my mind. I’m going to talk to a few people. We’ll see,” he said.