Static between the owner and programmers of WCLX, the "Album Station," has put the 10-year-old free-form rock station off the air—for now.
The object of the dispute? In a word: money.
License holder Dennis Jackson says he's had to subsidize the station since December 2008, and he wasn't interested in continuing the practice much past Labor Day. So, on September 9, he took WCLX off the air at 5 p.m., and now the two programmers who built the station's loyal following — Russ Kinsley and Diane Desmond — are trying to figure out their next steps.
Neither would specify the amount of money in the dispute, but Kinsley said it was about the price someone would pay for a new compact car.
The decision has stirred up plenty of complaints from listeners, who have been flooding the station with emails and posts to its website.
Kinsley and Desmond are still spinning records, but only for a growing band of online listeners. The pair hopes to find a new home on the radio dial for the station.
Kinsley said Jackson's decision to pull the plug defies logic after he and Desmond have been solid custodians of the signal and have built a loyal fan base of "music heads".
"Don't count us out," said Kinsley.
Jackson said the station's license is not yet up for sale, but it could be sold if he can't find a way to keep the signal on the air. "I'm open to all ideas," he told Seven Days.
Kinsley said if Jackson is open to ideas, that's news to him and Desmond. They claim Jackson has been difficult to work with and unwilling to wait out the downturn in the economy. In fact, they were already beginning to think of ways to take the format to a different signal when Jackson pulled the plug.
That's a misrepresentation, says Jackson.
"I had been covering a lot of expenses, and I was led to understand that advertisers were not paying their bills on time, and I gave them until around Labor Day to ask people to pay up," he told Seven Days. "Tell them: 'We can't float this anymore.'"
When the situation didn't change, Jackson decided to cut his losses and take the station off the air.
"To have him tell the story, one would be left with the impression that the advertisers had stiffed us; that's not the case at all," said Kinsley. Advertisers were paying more slowly than in past years, he said, which meant the station's cash flow suffered.
"We were sending him everything we could every month," said Kinsley.
Despite the move to kill the station, Jackson said he's sorry to see WCLX gone from the air, and he knows his decision has upset plenty of people — especially Desmond and Kinsley.
"It's a wonderful station," said Jackson. "I know there is a lot of acrimony around it. But I'm not sure anyone behaved badly; it was simply a business decision."
And, Jackson added, he had hoped the station would be commercially viable.
"If the Champlain Valley isn't the place for an old hippie station like this, then there's no place on Earth for it, and I was willing to see it continue—just not if it was going to cost me money every month," said Jackson.