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Nothing But Static: Longtime Album Station Goes Silent

Local Matters


Published September 30, 2009 at 8:40 a.m.

Static between the owner and programmers of WCLX, the “Album Station,” has silenced the 10-year-old free-form rock station — on the airwaves, at least.

License holder Dennis Jackson said he’s had to subsidize the station since December 2008, and wasn’t willing to continue to do so any longer. On September 9, he took WCLX off the air at precisely 5 p.m. That leaves the two programmers who built the station’s loyal following — Russ Kinsley and Diane Desmond — largely unemployed and figuring out their next steps.

Neither would specify the amount of money in the dispute, but Kinsley said it was about the price of 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, where Kinsley and Desmond are still spinning records.

Kinsley said Jackson’s decision to pull the plug defies logic, as 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.

In fact, Kinsley and Desmond are actively raising money on the station’s website. The pair hopes to collect $10,000 in an effort to get back on the air — somewhere on the dial. To date, they’ve raised close to $2000.

Jackson said the station’s license is not yet up for sale, but 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.

“If he’s so open to new ideas, why wouldn’t he just have kept the station on?” asked Kinsley. “We wanted to work something out, but he just seemed disinterested and unwilling.”

That’s a misrepresentation, said 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. Jackson instructed Kinsley: “Tell them: ‘We can’t float this anymore.’”

When the situation didn’t change, Jackson said he 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 off the air, and he knows his decision has upset plenty of people — especially Desmond and Kinsley.

“It’s a wonderful station, and I know this isn’t Russ’ first attempt to make this format work in the Champlain Valley,” said Jackson, referring to Kinsley’s involvement in WEXP, aka “The Experience,” which had a 10-month life back in the ’80s. (Located at 105.1, it’s now KOOL-FM.) Kinsley was also instrumental in shaping 106.7 FM, which became WIZN, and WKLZ, at 92.1 FM.

“If the Champlain Valley isn’t the place for an old hippie station like this, then there’s no place on Earth for it,” Jackson added. “I know there is a lot of acrimony around it. But I’m not sure anyone behaved badly; it was simply a business decision.”

Kinsley is also embroiled in a dispute with the owner of a startup radio station in the Champlain Valley: Jeff Loper, a former partner in the failed WB Network channel that took up residence in Burlington in the mid-1990s. Loper’s new venture — Convergence Media — made headlines earlier this summer by announcing it would bring back the popular morning show “Corm & the Coach,” featuring Steve Cormier and former UVM basketball coach Tom Brennan. It launches this fall on 107.1 FM.

Kinsley claimed Loper failed to pay him for engineering work to get the signal up and running, and also reneged on a deal to simulcast WCLX on one of the radio signals. In fact, Kinsley said he brought the signals to Loper’s attention, and had hoped to buy them himself. He even had call letters assigned — WELX. Then, after months of benefiting from Kinsley’s engineering work, Loper, now the owner of the signal, changed the call letters to WNMR.

Loper said he did agree to work with Kinsley to bring the radio signal — 107.1 FM — to life. But he said he’s not been totally pleased with Kinsley’s work or with how things have panned out in this “partnership.”

“Basically, Russ brought me a license opportunity because he had it before him, and his backers walked away from it. The idea was, I’d buy it and he’d put programming on it and run the thing,” said Loper.

Kinsley said the pair never had a formal business arrangement. Rather than have a stake in the company, Kinsley said he told Loper he just wanted to be paid. Without his work, Kinsley argued, Convergence wouldn’t be as close to going live as it is. The station should be on air within a few weeks.

“I did a lot of work to get those signals up and running, and I didn’t charge him for all of the work,” said Kinsley.

Neither Kinsley nor Loper would say how much money is in dispute.