Since 1983, the Boston radio station marketed as “true alternative” has rocked the airwaves, but for the last few years it really hasn’t been the alternative to anything — it’s been the only game in town.
And now it’s gone.
Phoenix Media has sold 101.7 FM, the home of WFNX, to radio conglomerate Clear Channel.
Not the station, the frequency.
Phoenix Media, in a statement Wednesday, said the company will retain “the call letters, the archives, interviews, videos, etc.,” meaning that soon, the radio station 101.7 WFNX will cease to exist, and may only live on as an Internet or HD radio station.
The Phoenix, reporting on its own company, says that Clear Channel may have plans to turn 101.7 into either a country or a Spanish language station.
Bolstering that argument, the Boston Business Journal is reporting that longtime radio personalities Julie Kramer and Henry Santoro were laid off today.
The move will leave Boston without an alternative radio station and with only one option for FM rock music. WAAF (97.7 and 107.3) attracts a “harder” audience and does not share much of an audience with the indie-heavy FNX crowd.
Boston.com reported Wednesday afternoon that 15 other WFNX employees were laid off. The station, which started the week with 21 employees — 9 full-time and 12 part-time — is left with three full-timers and one part time employee, Boston.com reports, citing Boston Phoenix editor Peter Kadzis.
WFNX has struggled in ratings for years, even after longtime rock competitor WBCN went off the air when CBS Radio launched its 98.5 The Sports Hub sports talk channel and moved a top 40 station to WBCN’s 104.1 dial position.
“Because this is an emotional announcement to make, let me cut right to the chase. This morning I met with the staff of WFNX to announce the pending sale of the station to Clear Channel Communications,” Phoenix Media founder Stephen M. Mindich wrote in a memo to staff. “It was a great run and I will miss the station.”
Mindich cited the economic downturn as a contributing factor in the sale.
“Despite its celebrated history, its cutting edge programming, its tradition of breaking new music, its ardent fans among listeners and advertisers, for some time it has been difficult to sustain the station – especially since the start of the Great Recession,” he wrote.
WFNX will remain on the air during the time it takes to complete the FCC transfer process.
Mindich said that events and concerts like the Best Music Poll (June 13) and the Seaport Six (June 14) will go on as scheduled.