The Sonderling Broadcasting Corp. of Miami has told the Federal Communications Commmission that it plans to sell Washington soul station WOL rather than face an FCC hearing into charges that the station's disc jockeys demanded payola to promote certain records.
WOL, which for the last 14 years has been a jive-talking voice to Washington's black working class, will be sold under the FCC's so-called "distress sale" provisions. These allow companies facing license renewal hearings to sell radio or television stations to minority groups at a "distress sale" price, something less than fair market value.
WOL was recently appraised at $1.5 million, according to a source close to the company, and likely will be sold or about $1.1 million.
Sonderling is "actively considering" at least a dozen groups that have expressed an interest in buying the station, including five groups composed of Washington residents, according to the source. Some of the other groups also include some people from Washington, he said, but he declined to name anyone interested in the station.
Sonderling expects to have selected a buyer within a month, the source said. "If we accomplish the sale, there will be no FCC hearing," he said.
The FCC policy on distress sales to minority groups is aimed at increasing black ownership of media. Although most stations facing license renewal hearings have recently filed for distress sales, only one television station, in Rhinelander, Wis., has been sold under the procedure.
The FCC last month said that it was "unable to find that a grant of the (WOL) renewal application would serve the public interest, convenience and necessity." The federal agency ordered full hearings into charges that WOL disc jockeys used the airwaves to benefit their own interests, rather than the public's, in determining programming content.
Two years ago, two major Washington area concert promoters charged that WOL disc jockeys used their programs to benefit DJ Productions, a concert promotions outfit run by the WOL broadcasters. The chares were denied, but WOL ordered DJ Productions out of business.
WOL was once the top-rated black-oriented radio station in Washington. It still is among the top 15 rated stations in Washington, but it trails two other black-oriented stations, WOOK-FM and WHUR-FM, according to Arbitron audience ratings.