Sale of Independent Alt-rock Station 101.7 WFNX Raises Concerns
by Kat Kulke on Friday, June 8th, 2012
On Wednesday, March 16, Stephen M. Mindich, the executive owner of alternative rock station 101.7 WFNX, disclosed that the station is being sold to the corporate media group Clear Channel Communications, Inc. The sale is causing uproar among FNX listeners, many of whom view it as a symptom of the increasing corporate movement in modern music and media.
Alternative music fans cherished FNX for its deliberate and one-of-a-kind playlists, which frequently featured local artists. Through weekly features such as “Local Exposure,” FNX directly promoted upcoming groups from greater Boston. Eva Grant shares, “I don’t know what will happen to the local music scene when FNX stops broadcasting local bands.” While many more corporate stations are driven by financial agendas, primarily aiming to amass listeners, FNX remained dedicated first and foremost to the preservation of independent music in the Boston area.
Evening DJ Jim Ryan shared in a public goodbye to listeners that working for FNX was what he had always envisioned radio to be like: A small group of people, drawn together by a shared passion for music. The dynamic that Ryan described carried through on air. Eva states that, “The spirit of the DJs and the listeners and the musicians…lead me to believe in the station. Because of the heart that went into every song played and every concert hosted, I didn’t grasp how much the Alternative music scene in Boston was losing power.”
Nevertheless, Mindich shared that despite FNX’s local core of listeners and rich history as Boston’s first-ever alternative station, financially sustaining the station has grown increasingly difficult since the beginning of the economic recession. According to the station owner, March 16 only marked the end of negotiations with Clear Channel that had been pending for some time. The decision was a purely financial one: While, from an artistic standpoint FNX may have had “heart,” from a business standpoint it was not a profitable venture.
Clear Channels’ purchase of the station immediately resulted in massive layoffs. Within twenty-four hours of Mindich’s announcement, a number of DJs and other personalities had lost their positions.
Listeners fear that the imminent closing of the station is a sign of a public dilemma that is much greater than WFNX. Over the past decade, media as a whole has become much more corporate and industrialized. Hundreds of stations nationwide may be managed by the same label. As a result, celebrity artists dominate the airwaves while local and independent musicians struggle more and more to find audiences. The purchase of FNX, one of the few remaining genuinely independent radio stations in New England, by Clear Channel—a massive corporation that Boston.com describes as a “radio giant,” seems to epitomize the growing qualms of independent musicians.
While the sale has been finalized, FNX has promised listeners that it will stay on-air until the end of June. Additionally, the station owner is retaining FNX’s intellectual property, such as call letters, archives, interviews, and videos, leaving the possibility for FNX to develop into an Internet or satellite station if resources become available. Upcoming shows such as the Seaport Six, to be held on June 14 at the Bank of America Pavilion, will continue as planned. For those interested, more information, including Mindich’s letter and Clear Channel’s statement, are available online at wfnx.com.
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