Triple-FM Group Upset with New Low-Power Jonesboro Radio Station

MAY 17, 2004 - Posted at 1:07 p.m. CDT, updated at 4:24 p.m.

JONESBORO, AR - There are two major players on Jonesboro's commercial radio landscape...the 5-station Clear Channel group, which includes FM powerhouses Kiss-FM and KFIN (K-Fine), and the 3-station Saga Communications group, better known in local circles as the Triple-FM Group, which includes KDXY (The Fox) and KDEZ (Z100 Rocks).  The two groups wage war on a daily basis for listeners and advertiser dollars.

But, there's a new player on the Jonesboro radio scene, and the Saga-Triple FM group has KFLO-LP in its sites.  KFLO-LP is considered a low-power, non-commercial station that is licensed to American Heritage Media, Inc., which is backed by Jonesboro radio veteran Johnny Shields.   The station broadcasts a Southern Gospel format, operating at 86 watts on a 100-foot tower at studios on Southwest Drive.

Here's the rub, as far as Saga-Triple FM is concerned.  While KFLO is considered a non-commercial station, it "has been airing announcements which sound suspiciously like commercials, a no-no for what is supposed to be a completely commercial-free broadcast service," reports Radio Business Report (RBR), an industry-based Internet site.   Interspersed with its gospel format, KFLO broadcasts messages with items "underwriting" notices from companies like, "Southern Mortgage Company offers one-hour pre-approval," and C.J. Watkins Construction Company..."specializing in custom windows and siding, enclosures, doors and remodeling of all kinds."

RBR reports, "Saga Communications is taking a stand now to make sure that the FCC enforces the legal terms of the LPFM license."  Saga chairman Ed Christian told RBR that competition with his own stations in Jonesboro is not the point, but, "The fact is that these people are going out there and representing themselves as something they are not entitled to be."

Meanwhile, Shields responded to Saga's complaint by saying, "We are doing nothing illegal.  Everything we've done is within the guidelines of the FCC regarding our class of station."  Shields says he first became aware of Saga's concerns when he received a letter of inquiry from Triple-FM vice president and General Manager Trey Stafford, but added, "I've been in touch with the FCC, and I'm really not too concerned about this."