WJDF ordered off air, owners facing lawsuit

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 4/8/2019 3:34:31 PM
Modified: 4/8/2019 3:34:39 PM

ORANGE — Radio station WJDF 97.3 FM has been ordered off the air by the Federal Communication Commission due to the failure of owners Jay, Donn, and Fred Deane to pay nearly $8,000 in regulatory fees, dating back to 2014. Broken down by year, the Commission’s order claims Deane Brothers Broadcasting, Inc. owes the FCC $1,946.50 for FY 2014, $1,921.17 for FY 2015, $2,063.20 for FY 2016, $1,898.36 for FY 2017, and $ 1,812.50 for FY 2018.

The FCC warned DBB on November 30, 2018 that it risked the revocation of its broadcast license if it failed to respond within 60 days. The company did not respond in the allotted time, and the license was officially revoked on April 4.

Meanwhile, the man who planned on purchasing WJDF from the Deanes is now threatening to sue the brothers for $1.8 million for allegedly breaching one agreement and for withholding information during negotiations for the sale of the station.

Steve Wendell first claims he was never told of the delinquent regulatory fees. Without the fees being satisfied, the broadcast license could not be transferred to Wendell.

“I was never told that,” said Wendell.

“Also, I had a local marketing agreement with the Deane Brothers,” he said. “In other words, I could take over the programming (of the station) and sell advertising. But then I got this note in November saying they owed all this money. I was going to buy the station from them, but they couldn’t transfer the station to me because they’d been put on ‘red light’ by the FCC, which meant since they owed money, they couldn’t do anything.”

In addition, Wendell alleges he was never told that the license for the station hadn’t been renewed since 2014. The FCC website indicates the most recent valid license to broadcast expired on April 1 of that year.

Wendell said he arrived at the figure of $1.8 million based on several factors.

“That’s the station, plus lost advertising,” said Wendell. “Now, in August WJDF was hit by two lightning strikes and burned out the transmitter. With our agreement, the Deane brothers were supposed to have insurance and they were supposed to replace the transmitter, which they did not.”

As a result, WJDF was off the air for four months, according to Wendell.

“I put in a backup transmitter myself in December,” he explained. “The backup transmitter cost about $5,000. A new one costs about $40,000.”

The 58-hundred-watt FM radio station has been broadcasting since 1991, when it went on the air as WFUB. It was taken over by the Deane Brothers in 1995 and the call letters were changed to WJDF.

In the meantime, Wendell said he has an attorney in Washington, DC who will be meeting with the FCC to see if there’s a way for him to obtain the license, despite the Deane’s debt to the commission.

“If I had my way,” said Wendell, “I’d have the station back on the air within the year. The sooner the better. I’m very community-oriented, as the folks in Gardner know. I want to do things like broadcast the River Rat Race and the Food-a-Thon, things like that.”

When contacted by the Athol Daily News for comment, Jay Deane said, “I don’t have anything to say at the moment. I’m sure we’ll have a comment soon.”

“We’ll have something more to say at some point,” added Donn Deane. “We do want to thank everyone in North Quabbin for the support they’ve shown us over the years and especially at this time. We’re really not sure what’s going on, but we’ll be coming out with a statement when we have a clearer picture of what’s happening.”



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