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KOPE radio, talk network sold to Kentucky group

A Kentucky broadcasting group has agreed to acquire Chancellor Broadcasting Co., which operates KOPE-FM radio of Central Point, and affiliated Talk Radio Network Inc.

Broadcasters say the sale of Chancellor -- which was founded by Grants Pass religious leader Roy Masters -- could alter the landscape of Rogue Valley radio beyond the single station.

Premiere Radio Networks of Covington, Ky., offered $9 million for the properties, according to a release from the company Wednesday. Premiere is a subsidiary of Jacor Communications Inc., the nation's second-largest radio station group. It owns or is acquiring 186 stations in 48 states.

Premiere syndicates the Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Dr. Dean Edell, Leeza Gibbons, Michael Reagan and Jim Rome shows.

Talk Radio Network syndicates 17 radio talk programs, including Art Bell, whose two programs are broadcast on KOPE and about 400 other radio stations in the U.S. and Canada. Other programs include The Roger Fredinburg Show and The Dave Dawson Show.

Randy Michaels, Jacor chief executive, said he's long been a fan of Bell.

Combined with Rush, Dr. Laura and Dr. Dean Edell, we now have the four hottest radio talk shows in America, he said.

The sale of the Talk Radio Network syndicate is expected to close within the next month, according to the Jacor release. The sale of KOPE radio is subject to regulatory approvals.

At this time there are no changes at the station, said KOPE Marketing Director Lisa Lyon. There will be no change in that format that I know of.

She said the sale is part of a consolidation of ownership within the industry that followed the Telecommunications Reform Act of 1996, which raised limits on the number of stations a company can hold within a single market.

The Central Point radio station was founded in 1991 by Masters, who also founded the Foundation of Human Understanding.

The station was acquired by Chancellor Broadcasting Inc. last year, a move that was largely a corporate rearrangement, Lyon said. The ownership remained essentially the same. It includes members of Masters' family and Alan Corbeth, president and general manager.

Bob Johnson, who sold four Rogue Valley radio stations in 1996, said there are now three groups of ownerships in the Rogue Valley: Citadel, with six stations, including KTMT (Beat 93) and KCMX-AM; Duane and Sherry Hill, whose KRWQ is the flagship in a group of four; and Opus, which has KCNA, KROG and KRTA, the Spanish language station.

KOPE has been a minor player in the market, Johnson said.

The leading station, it's been KTMT or KRWQ, would have 20 percent of the market, he said. After that there would be one with maybe 10 percent and KOPE always had — or 2 percent, which wasn't enough to attract advertisers.

Corbeth, he said, embarked on a strategy of marketing talk shows by satellite. Relying on low-cost local talent and superstar Art Bell, he was able to amass enough listeners to land some of the bigger accounts.

Corbeth did a pretty good job, he said. Now KOPE is owned by a company with very deep pockets.

Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura are now carried on KCMX, but they could end up on KOPE when their contracts expire, Johnson said. Or Jacor could try to acquire the three stations in the Opus group, he added, which would leave the valley with station groupings of six, four and four.

Jacor owns several Portland radio stations, including KEX, KKRZ (Z-100), KKOW and KOTK.