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Major shake-up in Sault radio

In a major restructuring of local broadcasters, Sovereign Communications of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan has added YES-FM, Big Country 105.

In a major restructuring of local broadcasters, Sovereign Communications of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan has added YES-FM, Big Country 105.5, and Talk Radio 1400 to its stable of Upper Peninsula radio stations, which already includes WSOO-AM, Rock 101 and Oldies 93.

The multi-million-dollar deal gives Sovereign something close to a local monopoly over commercial radio frequencies in the Michigan Soo.

Northern Star Broadcasting retained its ownership of The Bear to ensure that Sovereign's concentration of ownership in the local market did not exceed Federal Communications Commission limits.

However, Northern Star is known to be getting out of the broadcast business and industry insiders do not expect The Bear to continue operations.

The Michigan Soo is also served by National Public Radio affiliate WCMU, a campus radio station at Lake Superior State University and a number of religious broadcasters. Four popular on-air personalities lost their jobs at Northern Star yesterday: Jason Mapes, Melissa Krahnke, Paul 'Junior' VanWagoner and Scott Nason.

Also let go were sales representative Sam Bailey and station manager Doug Laprade.

Sovereign President Bill Gleich tells that Northern Star Broadcasting terminated all 16 of its Michigan Soo staff yesterday and that his company rehired 10 of them.

All terminated employees received severance packages.

At least two grassroots Facebook campaigns have begun, encouraging listeners and advertisers to boycott the stations until the deejays are rehired.

The following news release was issued by Sovereign Communications. ************************* Sault Ste. Marie-based Sovereign Communications has reached an agreement with Northern Star Broadcasting to purchase their Upper Peninsula radio stations.

The eleven station, multi-million dollar acquisition will give Sovereign a total of seven radio stations in the Sault Ste. Marie and Newberry area, where the company already owns WSOO-AM, WSUE-FM, WNBY-AM and WNBY-FM.

The deal includes local WYSS-FM, WMKD-FM and WKNW-AM plus, five stations in Marquette and three in Iron Mountain.

Bill Gleich, president of Sovereign Communications, said: “We couldn’t be more excited about this purchase. Having these additional stations will allow us to serve the community as well as our advertisers and listeners in even greater ways.

"I believe we have the best people in the radio business; they’re all very excited about our growth and ready to take on new challenges.

"I look forward to a smooth transition as we bring the Northern Star stations into the Sovereign Communications family. We’re extremely fortunate to have veteran broadcaster Tom Ewing as our vice president/ general manager.

"Tom will take on additional responsibilities and play an important role in the larger company. Personally, as a local kid that grew up here in Sault Ste. Marie and started in the radio business at WSOO at 15 years old, this is a real dream come true for me.”

David Simmons, president of Traverse City/ Cheboygan-based Northern Star Broadcasting, commented: “while we will miss the many warm relationships that have developed during our involvement in the Upper Peninsula markets, the transaction with Sovereign Communications provides Northern Star Broadcasting with the opportunity for a renewed sense of focus and commitment to the remaining radio stations in the Northern Star Broadcasting group. We look forward to our continued community involvement, presentation of entertaining and quality programming for our listeners while providing outstanding customer service to our advertisers and promotional partners.”

Northern Star Broadcasting has owned and operated the eight Northern Lower Peninsula radio stations since its formation in 1998.

All of the Lower Peninsula radio stations will stay intact as a radio station broadcast group and will continue to be owned and operated by Northern Star Broadcasting, LLC.

The current management team, Del Reynolds, vice president of programming and operations and chief engineer, and Mary Reynolds, vice president of marketing and promotions and general manager, will continue to lead the Northern Star Broadcasting team of dedicated broadcast professionals.

************************* Facebook boycott groups

YES-FM boycott Boycott YES-FM until they bring back our DJs

David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans six decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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