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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended December 15, 2000
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
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Sent on Mormon-News: 12Dec00

By Kent Larsen

Bonneville Buys Chicago's WNIB, Fans Fear Format Change

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS -- LDS Church-owned radio company Bonneville International agreed last week to purchase Chicago classical music station WNIB-FM and its sister station WNIZ-FM for $165 million increasing Bonneville's presence in Chicago to five stations. But the announcement left fans of the 45-year-old station certain that it will not keep the classical format, instead choosing a more profitable format that fits better with Bonneville's other stations in Chicago.

The purchase is the latest move in the restructuring of Bonneville and the radio industry. The deregulation of the radio spectrum in 1996 allowed companies like Bonneville to own up to eight stations in a single market. And, like other radio owners, Bonneville has bought and sold stations in order to concentrate its holdings in a few markets. In the past few years, Bonneville has sold stations in New York City and traded its Los Angeles station for four in St. Louis. It also owns stations in Salt Lake City, Washington DC and San Francisco. Normally, a company's stations in a single market share overhead, office space, management, advertising sales staff, etc., significantly cutting costs while increasing revenues.

The sale of WNIB to Bonneville has classical music fans in Chicago already mourning the loss of the station to a new format on February 1st, when the sle will be completed. Although Bonneville hasn't announced that any decision to change formats has been made, most observers, including the station's current owners, Bill and Sonia Florian, believe the format will change to a more contemporary format. Bonneville's president and CEO, Bruce Reese, did speculate, however, that it is "harder to justify" staying with the less popular classical music format when there is another classical music station in the same market.

Kal Rudman, publisher of the radio industry trade magazine Friday Morning Quarterback, says that its not a matter of if WNIB will change formats, but when -- and to what kind of music. "The hot new format is '80s rock, all over the country," Rudman said. "Why? It's a demographics game and the people who grew up listening to '80s music -- 35 to 54 -- are a prime demographic target."

But some Chicagoans hold out some hope that WNIB will stay with the same format. Industry veteran Danny Newman hopes that Bonneville will see the cultural position that the station has in the city, "I would hope that the new owners would carry on the basic classical music policy that has made WNIB an important factor on the Chicago cultural scene," Newman said. "I don't know what they'll do, but I hope they'll do that." He observes that Bonneville kept the classical music format on two stations it acquired, in Washington DC and in San Francisco. But in those cities, the stations are the only classical music stations in the city.


Chicago Tribune 10Dec00 B3
By John von Rhein: Tribune Music Critic
Time to challenge station WFMT to higher standards

Classical Dearth
Chicago Tribune 9Dec00 B3
By Patricia Jana Hassler

WNIB Sale Leaves Classical Music Fans Out On A Limbo
Chicago Tribune 4Dec00
By Lou Carlozo: Tribune Staff Writer


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