Chances are you haven’t followed the saga of former Q92 (WDJQ) morning team Pat DeLuca and Charlotte DiFranco against the station, because the Canton-based station’s signal doesn’t reach all the way up to Cleveland. But now, thanks to the station’s refusal to negotiate an acceptable new contract with the pair and a just-settled lawsuit, the whole world can listen to them online.
DeLuca and DiFranco had been doing morning drive for six years and earning stellar ratings when their contract expired early this year.
“[Our lawyer] worked for six weeks to come to an agreement,” says DeLuca. “We were not asking for a pay raise. Our contract was quite restrictive, and we wanted some of the restrictive clauses scrapped. Not only was there a sole employment clause, but also language that we weren’t allowed to have outside financial interests without the station’s written permission. We wanted consideration for the non-compete — if we can’t work, you have to pay us. We wanted the ability to better promote our show because the promotional budget had been slashed over years.”
In the end, he says, general manager Don Peterson gave them a take-it-or-leave-it offer, and when they left it, says DeLuca, he told their lawyer Steve Okey, “Your clients don’t have jobs.”
The team quickly regrouped, launching their Internet station within weeks. Just as quickly, they were sued by Q92, who claimed they were violating their non-compete clause, which prohibits them from directly competing with their former employer.
According to AllAccess.com, “Okey argued that the Internet is completely different because it does not use the public airwaves, requires no FCC license, is not regulated by the FCC, and has no geographic limits like the radio station’s 60 mile transmission radius.”
Last week, Stark County judge Charles E. Brown Jr. agreed with Okey, establishing that Internet radio and broadcast radio are not direct rivals. (As a sweetener, he decided that Q92 must pay them for unused vacation time.) That leaves the air personalities free to build their new enterprise, which includes dsnhits.com and dsnrock.com. They now broadcast 24/7, with their morning show also available on podcast and iTunes radio, and they've just signed a distribution agreement with stream aggregator Tunein Networks. And they’re bringing other live hosts into the mix in other day parts, going against the trend of broadcast radio.
“Last month we had 22,000 unique connections,” says DeLuca. “The average time spent listening is 60.5 minutes. We’ve grown incrementally every month.”
While Internet radio may be the wave of the future as broadcast radio loses listeners, things aren’t going so well back at Q92, according to DeLuca.
“Our last [ratings] book was the best book the station ever had,” he says. “We had a upwards of a 30 share in ten different demographics. The first book since we left just came out, and they lost half their audience.”