Looks like another station is about to lose its grip on the local black community as new owners take over today, terminate staff and eliminate the urban format. Tampa radio station WTMP-AM‘s 57-year tradition of serving as the voice of the local black community will probably end today at 6pm, Sources state the new owners will not actually premiere the new format for WTMP until after Labor Day next week. Tom Joyner and Michael Baisden’s Show will no longer air on WTMP. Sources state the new owners Davidson Media will most likely flip the station to a Spanish Speaking format. The change is the result of money management and defaulted loans by owners.
WTMP has been at the center of a complex and heated legal battle since 2007, when difficulties in repaying a $20-million loan from a New York hedge fund led the Florida-based Cherry brothers to lose control of nine radio stations owned by their Tama Broadcasting Inc., including the Tampa station.
In 2008, Texas-based Scott Savage was appointed as a receiver in control of Tama’s broadcast licenses by the hedge fund. Savage said Davidson Media will pay to run the programing on WTMP, selling advertising on the station and pocketing any profits.
His hope is that a successful run by Davidson would improve the station’s value enough for a sale which could repay the loanholder, now known as Fortress Investment Group.
“We decided to change our direction to a format that is going to generate more listeners in the next couple of years,” said Savage, who wouldn’t say what the new format might be and didn’t know when Davidson Media might implement it.
“(WTMP) is competing against FM stations that have a much better signal and are owned by the likes of iHeartmedia (formerly Clear Channel) and CBS Radio,” he added, referencing CBS‘s rap-focused WLLD–FM (94.1) and iHeartmedia (formerly Clear Channel)‘s urban station WBTP–FM (95.7). “We did everything we could to compete as basically an insolvent company.”
But Charles W. Cherry II, the former vice president and general counsel for Tama, accused the hedge fund and its managers of destroying in just a few years what took them a decade to build.
“They replaced us with some money-driven outsiders who have no tie to the community,” said Cherry, whose family still owns the black-centered, statewide Florida Courier newspaper along with the Daytona Times and radio stations in Daytona Beach and Greenville, S.C. “If they knew how to run a radio station, they wouldn’t need to change the format.”
Cherry, whose younger brother Glenn served as general manager for WTMP, said they are still appealing court decisions and pursuing complaints with federal officials. He saw their fate as part of a larger pattern of Wall Street financiers taking ownership of radio stations from small, often-black-owned companies and running them with skeleton crews to minimize expenses before selling them off.