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Media Watch

It's Expansion, Not Abandonment, Says KSAZ

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When AIM Broadcasting purchased Marana-based KSAZ AM 580, it didn't take long for the company to look at growth possibilities--and that has some old-school Tucson radio folks concerned.

But according to general manager Mike Barna, who began his management duties with the nostalgia-format station shortly after the December purchase, the station's recent application to move the station's city of license to Queen Creek is aimed at enhancing the station's already impressive Arizona coverage.

"I drive in from Phoenix every single day, and the first thing I hit is Casa Grande," Barna said. "Casa Grande has buildings going up like crazy. You have buildings and homes going in all down the freeway. The cities are getting so lumped together, and that means more people. If we only concentrate on the Tucson market, which is right around a million right now, (we're missing) so many people listening between Tucson and Phoenix. ... There are hundreds of thousands of listeners out there now, and we want to capture those people, too.

"This radio station has been rated in Phoenix as well. We haven't promoted it since taking over in December, but it's been rated there before. This station could be rated in both markets."

Due to its low proximity on the dial, KSAZ's 1,000-watt signal is already among the strongest daytime AMs in Arizona. On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I heard it clearly as far as Wikieup, 50 miles south of Kingman.

"We get callers all day long who listen to the station in Fountain Hills, Prescott, Glendale, Mesa, Sun City," Barna said.

When the application--which Barna said still has a lot of Federal Communications Commission hurdles to clear--was issued, the initial concern among some centered around two possible scenarios. First, they feared AIM would simply move the transmitter and place the station in Phoenix, thus taking Tucson out of the equation.

"The transmitters will stay in Marana, no matter what," said Barna. "We reach into Queen Creek right now, and we're in the Phoenix area very strong. It's just a city of license. Moving a transmitter has nothing to do with it."

The second concern involved speculation about flipping--not unlike the real estate practice of buying a fixer-upper for cheap and selling the refurbished property for a huge profit. That was commonplace in radio 10 years ago.

Barna explained the speculation: "You're buying the radio station at a Tucson price; you're moving it to Phoenix and selling it immediately. It's a done deal. You're making millions of dollars on the thing. Well, I don't know about that plan. It's rumors and speculations."

Should the FCC approve the move, which Barna said could take three years, the plan would be to add booster transmitters at the Queen Creek location. From there, the possibility of covering all of Arizona increases.

"We have such a large parcel of land (in Marana), and the cost to move three towers would be prohibitive," Barna said. "Could we leave those towers there and get towers up north to help our nighttime and daytime signals go farther, maybe clear to the Nevada border? That's very possible. If we could go border to border, (advertisers) wouldn't have to buy 10 radio stations in Arizona. You could have one and cover the whole thing.

"It's only speculation on the future. Maybe something could happen, and we could become the Arizona network. We are touted in our logo as 'KSAZ 580 AM, Arizona's Best Radio.' We want to grow. We have a lot of plans to get closer and closer to Arizona. That's our plan."


CITADEL FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST LAWLEY

Todd Lawley, the former No. 3 man at Citadel Broadcasting and the one-time general manager of Citadel's cluster of stations in Tucson, is being sued by his former employer.

In a suit filed in Boise, Idaho, Citadel alleges Lawley was involved in highly confidential and proprietary discussions with Citadel CEO Farid Suleman about the company's bid on a cluster of Fresno, Calif., radio stations put on the market by CBS Radio Stations Inc.

Lawley's new company, Peak Broadcasting, LLC, ended up purchasing those stations shortly after he left Citadel in November.

Furthermore, the suit claims: "Lawley initiated a scheme to raid the ranks of Citadel Broadcasting employees--and, thereby, cripple Citadel Broadcasting in a host of markets--by recruiting and luring away key employees and managers of the company to join him in what he was then planning as a new endeavor at Peak Broadcasting."

Lawley spent close to a decade in Tucson. On a personal note, I worked in part-time capacities at two companies where Lawley occupied management positions: Lawley was a sales manager at Clear Channel prior to jumping ship to Citadel, where he was eventually promoted to general manager and later made the No. 3 player in the Citadel chain. I still work at Citadel.

Lawley likes to win. He has that corporate drive that makes him a valuable asset if he's on your team--and an asshole if he's your opposition.

As for being involved in "highly confidential and proprietary discussions," well, he was the No. 3 guy in the company. What that means in terms of the way Lawley handled his business dealings is up to the court system.

I find it fascinating that Citadel seems concerned about Lawley's alleged raiding of Citadel Broadcasting employees; Citadel didn't seem particularly upset about this occurrence when Lawley worked for them. A recent scan of the Citadel Tucson roster turns up at least a dozen employees who worked with Lawley during his days at Clear Channel--employees who made the move shortly after Lawley's departure.

Furthermore, Citadel didn't seem particularly bothered by Lawley's significant involvement in wresting the million-dollar-a-year UA sports contract from its long-time home, Clear Channel's KNST AM 790. It's now the plum for Citadel's KCUB AM 1290 The Source.


TUCSONJAZZRADIO.ORG NEEDS VOLUNTEER HELP

Online radio entity tucsonjazzradio.org is searching for on-air talent. Web site organizer Tony Frank is in the market for two volunteers to handle two-hour shifts announcing music cuts, local events, jazz gigs and upcoming theatrical performances. If interested, e-mail tucsonjazzradio@hotmail.com.

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