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Insights and Observations

Henry's Highlights
Thursday, June 15, 2006

By Henry Hinton

Here's the 'no spin' story on radio saga


7:00-9:00 a.m.

Tune in on the radio or catch the live Internet feed of today's Talk of the Town with Henry Hinton:


The new radio deal just announced gives East Carolina the best coverage in the history of the network. Obviously, we at Talk 1070 are ecstatic that we will be helping to provide it for the next five years.

One thing is for certain, the passion of ECU fans carries over to scrutinizing every facet and decision of the program. But let’s enter the “no spin zone” and consider the facts.

East Carolina sold the rights to all of its media and marketing efforts earlier this year to ISP Sports, the college sports marketing conglomerate in Winston-Salem. ISP has steadily become a huge force in college athletics and has the muscle to bring new and larger dollars to the program.

As rights-holder, it is ISP’s job to take the radio network to a higher level. Job One was to get the games, particularly football, on a big power station that can reach all of eastern North Carolina. For years there have been Pirate fans who have complained that coverage was sketchy in areas away from Pitt County.

This lack of coverage has affected everything from Pirate Club donations to season ticket sales. Mostly, it has been an inconvenience for loyal fans who desire to sit in their homes and listen.

I have been told many interesting stories about passionate fans who would do such things as get in their cars in far away places and position their vehicles in different spots of the yard trying to hear one of our old low power FM stations in Greenville in the old days.

In short, no one can argue the need for big power stations.

Finally, for the first time in many years, this new agreement delivers them. WSFL 106.5 FM, the classic rock station from New Bern, will carry Pirate football as part of this new five-year deal. (No, it’s not true that John Boy and Billy will replace Jeff and Carlester).

WSFL is owned, as is Talk 1070, by Beasley Broadcasting which is one of the top radio companies in the country.

Before our current programming partnership agreement with Beasley on Talk 1070, our company owned three FM stations in eastern North Carolina. We are proud that every station we owned, including our own 100,000-watt station — which is now WMGV 103.3, also now a Beasley station — carried every single ECU football and basketball game during our ownership.

Eventually, we sold all three stations to large media conglomerates. The post-Reagan deregulation era continually created an environment at the Federal Communications Commission (the agency that regulates radio and television stations) that allowed ownership of multiple stations in individual markets.

When we bought our first station, WCZI 98.3 FM in 1989, the university desperately needed coverage. I will never forget calling then-AD Dave Hart on the phone and telling him we were considering buying the station. His reaction was one of exuberance in that ECU was in search of a station to work with. He pledged his support and in turn we pledged to do more programming than ever before to help the program.

At that time, any company could own just one FM station per market. That quickly changed and soon larger companies started moving into eastern North Carolina. It became obvious over time that our company either had to get much larger very quickly or we would be eaten alive by the bigger companies moving in. The other option, of course, was to sell the stations to some of these larger companies, which we opted to do when they came calling.

Our decision to do that was bittersweet in that we had developed a niche in the area for being involved locally and of course our ECU programming. Selling the stations was, plain and simple, the most reasonable business decision. There were no other emotional influences on our decision to sell.

Quite the contrary, some of the highlights of those years included developing programs to help ECU create excitement, including expanded pre-game and post-game coverage of ECU football and basketball.

We also developed nightly programs featuring members of the area media and coaches. In short, we did more programming and cheerleading for ECU than any other college sports program enjoyed anywhere.

Other highlights of that era included our decision, at the request of Keith LeClair, to increase the number of baseball games broadcast. And I am proud to say we did it prior to any of the LeClair-era NCAA regional appearances. Coach LeClair asked us to do more to help create excitement for his new program when he arrived and we complied. Boy were we glad we did. ECU baseball quickly became a juggernaut after that.

Before, during and since all of those days, our company has continued to do whatever we could to help ECU. Have we agreed with every decision made? Of course not. Neither have thousands of other loyal alumni. But we have never stopped supporting our university in any way we could.

Thankfully, our university now enjoys one of the best periods in its history for strong administration. Most will agree that we have finally concluded a dark period in our history that got the program off track. As Terry Holland gingerly likes to say, ‘We were distracted.’

However, we have never stopped wanting the best for ECU and have worked to help it attain its goals. That includes this recent negotiation which has just concluded that led to the WSFL-Talk 1070 partnership. Bringing in a third party like ISP was the right thing for East Carolina. What it did, however, was totally change the dynamics and needs.

We are happy that we will be working with ISP to provide this expanded coverage which will include new listening areas for Talk 1070 after the finalization of our upgrade to 50,000 watts in the next few weeks.

Talk 1070’s coverage footprint will expand to include nearly all of eastern North Carolina during the daylight hours. After the sun sets we are hopeful that our new 10,000 watts allocation for those hours will also allow new listeners to hear Pirate sports, particularly basketball and baseball.

What is clear is that all areas previously covered at night will have a clear signal for future years. Let’s hope it’s even better than that when all the work is done.

We will be announcing our new Pirate sports programming lineup in the next few weeks and we think it will be the best ever. As the ECU program gets better, it is our pledge that we will do everything possible to make this venture a successful one for ECU and Pirate fans everywhere.

I would like to say a word of personal thanks to the Chairman of the Board of Beasley Broadcasting, Mr. George Beasley, along with the local market managers Bruce Simel and Brad Hood for helping to make this happen for East Carolina.

Our company is proud to be associated with Beasley and excited about the future of our new agreement with ECU and ISP Sports.

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This page updated 04/21/08 07:01 PM.

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