Nothing mysterious about music station KOMJ's appeal to listeners

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Posted: Friday, September 20, 2013 12:00 am

The location of the KOMJ 1490 AM studio is still a mystery, but one thing has been clarified: The adult-oriented music station with no disc jockeys and no commercials is a chart-topper with many folks in town.

“I would love to see the station stay on the air,” said listener Michael Ray. “It's been years since I've heard many of the songs they have been playing — it just brings a smile to my face.”

Ray's comments echo those of dozens of emailers and online commenters after The World-Herald reported that the Federal Communications Commission has filed a notice of regulatory violations against the station's owner, Wyoming-based Cochise Broadcasting.

The nation's airwave regulator filed the violations notice last month on KOMJ — an eclectic station with a format that includes artists as diverse as Mama Cass Elliot, the Pointer Sisters, the Righteous Brothers and James Brown, the Godfather of Soul.

The notice said the station has failed to identify the location of its studio. The FCC says that is required by law so people can inspect station licensing and authorization documents upon request.

FCC documents show Cochise Broadcasting is owned by an Arizona man named Ted Tucker, and lists a Jackson, Wyo., P.O. box for an address.

Tucker, reached through his Virginia-based attorneys, had no comment in response to inquiries by The World-Herald, citing the pending nature of the FCC enforcement action.

Tucker is no stranger to allegations of FCC violations: A Nebraska station owned by his Cochise broadcasting empire was cited for similar infractions last year.

Cochise Media Licenses, according to FCC online records, was cited last year for violations at KHSK, an AM station in Allen that broadcasts a simulcast of KOMJ.

An FCC spokesman declined to comment, citing the pending nature of the investigation.

But FCC records show the KHSK allegations mirror those levied by the FCC against KOMJ — no address provided by the station for the studio from where the broadcast originates.

The records indicate Cochise Broadcasting, which operates KOMJ, and Cochise Media Licenses, which operates KHSK, are affiliated companies. They share the same P.O. box address in Wyoming and the same legal representative, a law firm in Virginia.

Other FCC records show Tucker's signature as “managing member” on documents for both companies.

Radio insiders wonder why someone would subsidize the expenses of operating a radio station, ignoring the prospective revenue stream afforded by selling advertising.

“I wish I could answer that one,” said Marty Riemenschneider, president of the Nebraska Broadcasters Association. “Selling advertising is how commercial radio stations make money.”

Riemenschneider said KOMJ is a member in good standing of the broadcasters association, although in recent years it has not participated in the group's “mock inspection” program designed to simulate a visit from the FCC. The station's format and lack of advertising are not new developments, he said, but have been standard practice for years.

It is possible, Riemenschneider said, to operate a station in an unattended fashion, as 1490 AM appears to do, sans disc jockeys, commercials, weather reports or anything other than music and an occasional promotional message such as KOMJ's “Sophistication is what we know best!”

He said all that is required is a subscription to a satellite music distributor, a computer and some other gear to transmit the tunes over the airwaves. He also said there are utility bills and the payment of performance royalties to composer's associations SESAC, BMI and ASCAP.

Riemenschneider said the royalty-collecting groups charge radio stations a fee based on gross revenue. If KOMJ has none, the station would pay a minimal fee, Riemenschneider said.

Tucker might not be worried about small expenses, however. In 2005, the Tucson Weekly reported Tucker was a former radio station engineer who bought small stations, spruced them up and sold them. In one case, the Arizona weekly said, he sold a station for $18.7 million.

In 2004, Tucker told the Arizona Daily Star newspaper he had programmed a commercial-free classic rock station there by converting his personal record collection into a digital format. He told the paper he preferred his station there to play great songs that have been forgotten over the years “because it isn't profitable” for mainstream radio stations to program them.

There is at least one other unknown in the KOMJ saga — its future. Last month, industry trade journal Radio and Television Business Report said Tucker had agreed to sell KOMJ to Kona Coast Radio, owned by a man named Vic Michael.

Michael confirmed via email that he is buying the station but did not respond to additional queries. The Nebraska Broadcasters Association said on its website the purchase price was $450,000.

Listener Olivia Manzitto is hoping for no change. “I'd hate for it to go off air, it's such a funny station to sing along to in the car or while I'm in the kitchen.”

As for Cochise Broadcasting boss Tucker, Riemenschneider said he owns many stations in the Western U.S. The man, he said, is as mysterious as his business practices.

“I have spoken to him on the phone,” Riemenschneider said. “But if he walked up to me right now, I would not know who he is.”

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