'The Buzz' drops off airwaves

"The Buzz" KFMZ/98.3 FM just isn't buzzing like it used to.

Since Thursday morning, KFMZ, which usually plays alternative music from bands such as Nickel Back, Green Day and Foo Fighters, has not broadcast at all, and conflicting reasons exist for the station shutdown.

Late Wednesday, the station owner called Robert Cox, general manager of KFMZ, to let him know the station could not operate after 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.

"We were notified that all properties were to cease operations. So we did," Cox said.

The Federal Communications Commission made a rare decision Wednesday to halt broadcasting at five stations in the Midwest connected to Michael Rice, owner of KFMZ.

Rice, of St. Charles, is the owner of the Contemporary Broadcasting Corporation, which owns stations in Columbia, Eldon and Terre Haute, Ind. Rice was convicted in 1994 on felony charges of child molestation in his home and served a five-year prison sentence. The FCC does not allow convicted felons to hold broadcast licenses.

But Michael Dunn, general manager of MU's National Public Radio affiliate station, KBIA/91.3 FM, said Rice's felony conviction was not the only FCC rule he violated.

The FCC asked Rice to remove himself from the day-to-day operations at KFMZ because of the felony conviction. After Rice reported to the commission he had done that, the FCC found evidence that he continued to involve himself with daily operations, Dunn said.

"That was his second strike," Dunn said. "He knew that the rules were the rules."

Rice has appealed the decision all the way to the Supreme Court, where the justices refused to look at the case.

The order to cease operations had nothing to do with the actual stations or employees, Dunn said.

MU junior Chris Vomund was a part-time employee at KFMZ, and he was told early Thursday morning that he could go to work that day to gather his things and pick up his last paycheck.

"We all just sat around and talked," Vomund said. "It just really sucks."

He said he has heard different reasons why the station shut down.

"We'd heard that someone might have made a tape of 'The Buzz' and sent it into the FCC and said we didn't ever do any community service and that we were on the air for merely entertainment value," he said. "From what I understand, this was the last straw, and the FCC said 'OK' and shut us down."

But Vomund said the accusations are false.

"We just raised between four and five thousand dollars for the United Way a couple of weekends ago," Vomund said.

KBIA and five other stations have applied for the rights to an interim license at what used to be KFMZ, Dunn said. The FCC is now faced with the decision of how to determine which station gains the rights tothe frequency.

There is no set of rules to use in making this decision.

"Whatever they decide will have implications all over the country down the road," Dunn said.

Now that the station isn't broadcasting, the general manager and the rest of the employees are faced with what to do next.

Cox said he will be helping announcers get résumés together so they can work on getting jobs at other stations, and he will stay at the station to wrap things up at the building in the next few weeks.

"Everybody wants to worry about the station," Cox said. "But does that really matter? We'&not"'&Aring"&frac34"&AElacirc"'&Aring"

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