Update: Rejoice, talk radio fans! As of 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, KXFN 1380 AM has returned to your radio dials. Operation manager Mike Calvin says the station's landlord granted an extension until KFNS 590 is sold, which means that the 1380 crowd will able to start broadcasting and selling ad spots. The major tower repairs have also been completed, though it still awaiting some additions to bring it in line with FCC and FAA regulations.
In the meantime, Cavlin says a new investor group is in the works for KXFN, and that'll likely mean more shakeups at "The X" in the near future. Still, it appears the station may get a shot at to succeeding on the merits of its lineup -- leaving the burden of past bills (and face-punches) behind. End of update, see original post below.
Fans of KXFN 1380 AM "The X: Extreme Talk Radio" are likely wondering why the station disappeared from St. Louis airwaves. Unpaid bills are only part of the story.
For nearly three weeks, those seeking the station's brash lineup of shock-jock comedy, sex talk and music have instead encountered dead air and static where the 1380 channel should be. Although the shows are still (mostly) broadcasting over the web via KXFN's downloadable app, it's a particularly bad timing for the radio signal to go quiet: Two of station's hosts were recently nominated in the RFT Reader's Poll for the upcoming Best of St. Louis 2014 awards.
Operations manager Mike Calvin tells Daily RFT that old bills and repairs on KXFN's transmission tower knocked the broadcast off terrestrial radio, but he expects to have the debts squared and repairs completed by Tuesday. However, that doesn't solve the larger financial crisis facing KXFN and its sister station, KFNS 590 AM.
In June, Calvin took the reigns at KXFN and KFNS. He was a seemingly last-ditch option to lead the stations following a fistfight between radio host Brian McKenna and then-president Dan Marshall, who left the station after getting punched in the face.
"It was ugly, and a black eye to the station," says Calvin. He was saddled with the unenviable task of keeping both stations afloat. He takes credit for building KXFN into its "Extreme Talk Radio" identity, though that shift represented a final nail in Marshall's ill-fated plan to cross-promote the two stations by gender -- KFNS as "The Man" and KXFN as "The Woman."
KFNS is still "The Man," and presently features a mix of local programming and syndicated shows, all geared toward a standard sports-talk market. That's helped KFNS maintain relationships with St. Louis' sports teams, says Calvin. He says the investor group behind both stations, Grand Slam Sports, received an offer last week to buy KFNS outright.
But KXFN? "The station was basically left to rot" after McKenna's exit, says Calvin. It appears the stations' investors are soured on the radio game in general, and the bad press surrounding the fistfight only added to the pain. Triad Bank has accused the Grand Slam Sports investor group -- which includes former Rams offensive tackle Orlando Pace and former Blues forward Keith Tkachuk -- of defaulting on more than $1.1 million worth of loans last year, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Calvin says the ownership group is simply exhausted after years of mismanagement and expensive embarrassments.
"I'm like the fifteenth girlfriend after they've had fourteen bad ones, there's no trust anymore," he says. "I've shown them the numbers and we're over-delivering, but it doesn't matter because they're so behind on bills that I can't get caught up. They have such a bad taste in their mouth."
Calvin says losing KXFN's radio signal for weeks because of issues with the antenna resulted in a 25 percent drop in the station's audience. Yet, people are still tuning in on the station's app, and shows like The Gayborhood and The Randy and Jim Show are still drawing an audience, he says. But no one is getting paid.
However, there is some hope. Calvin claims that a different investor has expressed interest in saving "The X" by purchasing the station. But that deal must get sealed this week or there won't be much left to buy. The Darryn Yates Show has already jumped ship. Yates -- who's been nominated by RFT readers as Best AM Radio Personality and Best Radio Show (Music) -- took to Facebook last week to say that the show is starting a "new chapter."
"I appreciate Mike [Calvin's] efforts and we are friends, but I am better than doing only a podcast. That is essentially what they are now after going off air," Yates tells Daily RFT. "I am wiling to consider a return once they return to the airwaves."
Calvin says Yates is merely on "hiatus" and that he has a plan to bring him back. Yates confirms that Calvin has reached out with some kind of plan to keep Yates at KXFN, but everything is up in the air as long as the radio signal is down.
Other KXFN shows, like The Gayborhood, are still holding on.
"We're in limbo, but there's a few of us determined and hanging in there," says Gayborhood host Show Me Charlotte, who's also nominated as Best AM Radio Personality in RFT's Reader's Poll. The tower shutdown is all the more heartbreaking for Charlotte, who debuted her show in late June as St. Louis' first-ever commercial LGBT talk radio program.
"This is my dream come true, and to have it only last a few months? What if we win and there is no station?" she says. "We believe in this, and if we get someone to purchase it and sink some money in, we could be a success, because it's unique."
For now, Charlotte and fellow believers like Randy Cash of The Randy and Jim Show keep the hope alive at KXFN, broadcasting their weirdness to the web. If Cavlin comes through on the tower, they'll be back on St. Louis radio this week. Regardless, the next few days will determine the station's fate.
"It could be that by mid-September everything is done and all gone. It's scary," admits Charlotte. But that doesn't mean she's given up. Not by a long shot.
"I'm going in there till they lock the doors," she says.