A former flagship radio station of Centralia is on the verge of being sold to a Portland-based company with more than two dozen stations across four states.
Bustos Media, LLC has agreed to purchase 102.9 KFNY-FM Centralia-Tacoma from Ocean Station Trust II, LLC for $3 million, according to radioinsight.com and a filing with the Federal Communications Commission.
The station has featured jazz music for the past two years as it sat in the Ocean Station trust, an offshoot of iHeartMedia, awaiting a buyer. FCC rules limiting the number of local radio stations an entity can own in a single footprint required iHeartMedia to place KFNY along with a number of other stations into a divestiture trust as a result of its acquisition of Entercom-owned stations in the Seattle area.
The station is licensed to the city of Centralia, which does not operate it. The transmitters are located in the Capital State Forest near Olympia and in Eatonville, according to FCC filings, creating a footprint stretching from the Seattle area to the Columbia River.
“The price seemed pretty respective to me as to what it’s worth,” said Matt Shannon, station manager and program director for Live 95.1 FM in Centralia. Shannon and Live 95.1 are not tied to the pending sale. “I’m not surprised by the sale amount. The radio industry is on track to make more money in 2019 than in any prior year, and to have more listeners. It made sense to me when I heard about it.”
Representatives of iHeartMedia and Bustos Media did not respond to requests for comment prior to press time. Kevin Huffer, promotions director for 1470 KELA-AM in Centralia explained that when a company puts a station into a trust and on the market, it has to maintain some sort of service on the airwaves, hence the looping smooth jazz tracks of the past few years.
Huffer and KELA are also not tied to the sale. He and Shannon spoke with The Chronicle to provide a general background and insight into transactions involving radio stations.
“I think they got it for a bargain,” Huffer said. “It’s a huge frequency that can cover from Portland all the way up to Canada. I would bet there was a bidding war going on, because I don’t know what iHeartMedia bought it for, but I would bet it was a lot more than $3 million.”
The frequency was home to KELA from September 1980 to February 1983, when it adopted the KMNT callsign currently in use as a country music station at 104.3-FM. It was most recently home to Alt 102.9 KFOO-FM before being swapped out for KFNY.
“(Bustos Media) won’t have to have a studio here, but they’ll probably have to do some sort of local programing on it,” Huffer said. “The FCC will determine how much local programming is required, same as with us. Bustos Media operates 99.3 KDDS-FM as well, so they will undoubtedly be directed to have some sort of local programming for Centralia and Tacoma.”
Most of Bustos Media’s stations, including KDDS based out of Elma, KMIA 1210-AM in Auburn and KZXR 101.7-FM in Prosser, play a heavy rotation of Spanish-language music. Brothers Amador and John Bustos founded their namesake media company in 2003 out of Sacramento, California. Their company amassed more than $100 million in private equity funding from three firms in 2004, according to Hispanic Business Magazine and the Sacramento Business Journal.
There is little to no local Spanish language programming currently on the Centralia airwaves, though that seems likely to change in the near future.
“It’s definitely an underserved demographic in our market, and it’s what Bustos Media is known for doing,” Shannon said. “I think it’s going to be a good thing.”