Monday, April 13, 2009

102.9 – Now You Hear It, Now You Don’t

One of the more bizarre episodes in Atlanta radio history played out over the past 2 weeks. And the good news is that a second episode is coming.

Radio Assist Ministry’s new translator, W275BK, signed on and turned some heads. The new facility had rebroadcast WCLK-FM during the testing phase. Somehow, the radio community just yawned and paid scant attention. But when the station hit the air for (almost) real, the format was hip-hop, and the moniker was Streetz 102.9.

Radio Assist Ministry has carved out an interesting business model. The company has a stated objective of building FM translators and then selling them to Christian organizations that broadcast “clean, wholesome” programming. The new Atlanta facility was sold to Extreme Media Group, LLC.

Radio Assist Ministry could get an argument from some that hip-hop is not exactly good clean programming. And a fair amount of doubt has been cast about that Extreme Media is a Christian organization.

Streetz 102.9’s power is 170 watts from 531 feet up the New Street tower in Kirkland. The signal is pretty good in the close-in parts of town. As a translator, it has to repeat a broadcast facility so the station is doing an LMA with Clear Channel on one of 105.7’s HD channels.

The 102.9 signal had little if any processing. But as a translator, it cannot have its own processing. Any processing would have to be done to the 105.7 HD signal and then repeated by virtue of the simulcast.

The new translator has some market value in Atlanta. A well-informed radio person suggested that 102.9 city grades more population than 96.7 in Peachtree City. Yet that station once programmed hip-hop and had close to a 1% share 12+.

Ratings or not, 102.9 will be a club station and an alternative to Hot 107-9. Ratings are not important to clubs; cash registers ringing are. Streetz could well bill 3 million or more. And expenses will be low. In terms of talent, all Streetz needs is a capable person—not a Frank Ski, mind you—to handle mornings and make appearances. It can be a music machine outside of mornings. If the reported $235,000 is really the price that was paid to Radio Assist Ministry, Extreme Media Group—whoever they are—made out like thugs in a hip-hop song.

As Streetz 102.9 hit the air, rumors started flying about the identity of the owners and operators. Radio One immediately pointed the finger at Steve Hegwood, who recently left Radio One as its Atlanta programming chief. By the end of last week, the unofficial word on the street was that Hegwood had negotiated the deal, but that the money had come from former Radio One/Atlanta GM Wayne Brown. An additional rumor surfaced that John Matthews, corporate head of engineering for Radio One, built the facility. (Matthews handled the engineering for Hegwood’s now-defunct On Top Communications, lending some credence to the rumor.)

Steve Hegwood according to sources has a non-compete with Radio One. After his On-Top Communications went bust, Hegwood returned to Radio One to program WKYS-FM in Washington, DC and oversee Hot 107-9 in Atlanta. He expected to move into the head programming position at Radio One corporate, but R1 President Barry Mayo bypassed Hegwood and selected former WPGC PD Jay Stevens. That left no room at corporate for Hegwood, who reluctantly accepted the Operations Director position in Atlanta. By all accounts, he handled the job with consummate professionalism but eventually quit to become his own boss again.

According to a friend who’s plugged into what’s happening at Radio One, CEO Alfred Liggins was “suing everyone,” starting with Steve Hegwood. The friend also reported that Wayne Brown was “running for the hills.” I’m not sure why Brown, who departed Radio One almost a year ago and has no non-compete, would be in jeopardy. I have heard that Brown had been calling his former advertising clients, but that seems his right.

I could not find any mention of Hegwood or Brown in the FCC database. The application was signed by Keenan Heard, identified as the CEO of Extreme Media Group, LLC. But where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Hegwood and Brown have got to be in the mix.

The AJC’s Rodney Ho found an Atlanta address for Extreme Media Group. Rodney went to the location, which turned out to be an apartment building, and Steve Hegwood was listed as a tenant. Rodney buzzed Hegwood, who answered. Rodney stated the purpose of his visit was to discuss Streetz 102.9. Hegwood replied, “I have nothing to do with that” and terminated the conversation. A few hours later, Streetz was off the air and has been silent since.

One thing is for certain: W275BK will be back on the air and probably as a hip-hop station. That’s the only format that seems to make sense in light of the in-town signal and its standalone status in the market.

If Hegwood and Brown are involved, they probably have several options. They could keep the station off until Hegwood’s non-compete runs out or sell the license to someone else. Some other options might exist, such as reworking the contract so Hegwood assumes his interest after his Radio One deal is over, but that’s just conjecture. I’m no legal expert, and this thing is shrouded in secrecy. Stay tuned as this developing story unfolds.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to email me at

Roddy Freeman

Link to Rodney Ho’s AJC Radio & TV Blog:

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