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January 23, 2007
Good time to be an Entercom lawyer ...

Entercom, the parent company of KDND (107.9 FM), certainly has its hands full with the lawsuit filed by the family of Jennifer Strange, the Rancho Cordova woman who died in the station's ill-conceived water-drinking contest.
And, yeah, the family (pictured), via its lawyer, also wants the station's license revoked, which means the petitioning of the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC, you may recall, is already quite familiar with Entercom's Sacramento stations.

To wit:

The former owner of KWOD (106.5 FM) has petitioned the agency to get this Entercom station's license revoked. Ed Stoltz, the former owner, has been fueding with Entercom for years, going back to the deal he made in 1998 to sell the station to the Pennsylvania-based radio behemoth. (Stoltz lost in court, but his FCC filing is still pending.)

And, the FCC fined the "Rob, Arnie & Dawn Show" $55,000 in 2004 - the maximum allowed at the time - for on-air indency. Since then, area resident James Peak, who filed the original complaint that led to the fine, has filed other indecency complaints against this Entercom station. The FCC has yet to rule on the complaints.

Of course, the water-drinking contest and resulting death is serious business and has gotten the most attention. (Although early word in the industry is that no one really thinks the FCC will revoke KDND's license.)

But there are other legal and tactical issues keeping Entercom - which reported a 27 percent decline in income and revenue in the third quarter - and its lawyers hopping. We had some free time so, rather than surffing YouTube, we looked up Entercom's activity in just the past three months; here's what we found:

* In late December, the company agreed to pay a $3.5 million (plus another $750,000 for costs to the state for investigating) settlement to the New York Attorney General's office as part of a radio payola scandal in 2004 and '05. The AG's office charged that Entercom had solicted bribes from record labels and traded air time for songs for a multitude of promotional items, including trips.

As part of the settlement, Entercom also agreed to hire a compliance officer and do internal monitoring of promotion practices. In other words, they've promised to clean up their act and stop doing the pay-for-play practice.

* The New York AG's office is considering turning over its payola evidence to the FCC for possible fines or license revocations. One mandate the FCC is mulling is to force stations to allot a certain amount of time to playing music from independent music labels. (So Entercom's bad behavior, backhandedly, might improve radio, after all.)

* In mid November, Entercom bought several Austin, Texas, stations and abruptly started significant layoffs.

* An Entercom-employed shock/talk jock, John DePetro, was fired in early November with no severence pay by WRKO in Boston for calling a Massachussets gubernatorial candidate a "fat lesbian." DePetro's lawyer told the Boston Herald that the fired DJ is considering a lawsuit.

* Later in November, the same station, WRKO, laid off its entire news team - seven people - and eliminated news altogether on the station.

* An Entercom country station in Kansas City is taking action against another country station, alleging that the rival station used the intellectual property (the name of a DJ) in a "Turkey Day" promotion.

* The "Morning Zoo" team at Entercom station WNVZ in Virginia was yanked off the air Jan. 3 because it complained about not being able to play enough music. The station suspended the jocks.

* Finally, some potentially good news for Entercom: This month, Entercom entered the San Francisco radio market when it received three Bay Area FM stations from Bonneville International Corp. in exchange for four stations in Cincinnati and three in Seattle. Entercom also received a $1 million payment from Bonneville.

The company could probably use the money.

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