As Hennen returns to air, he denies oil baron Hamm is investor in station purchaseFARGO – Scott Hennen, the man conservative talk- radio listeners in the Red River Valley call “The Chairman,” made his triumphal comeback Thursday as the new owner of AM 1100 The Flag.
By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM
FARGO – Scott Hennen, the man conservative talk- radio listeners in the Red River Valley call “The Chairman,” made his triumphal comeback Thursday as the new owner of AM 1100 The Flag.
In an hourlong stint on the “Chris Berg Show,” the founder of The Flag reassured lovers of conservative talk that he’ll give them what they want.
“Our secret sauce is pretty much not a secret – conservative talk,” Hennen said.
Hennen declined to reveal the names of individuals, banks or other groups that make up his investor mix. He said oil billionaire Harold Hamm, whom he counts as a friend, is not an investor in The Flag.
Hennen announced Wednesday that he had an agreement to buy The Flag.
He said he and his current investors have made a substantial six-figure non-refundable deposit on the station. He said he is still lining up and finalizing the investors in the station, but if need be, he has the financial backing available to buy the station now.
“I’m being extraordinarily cautious,” he said.
The station will focus its programming on a philosophy based on three pillars: faith, family and freedom – at least, in terms of guaranteeing conservative programming on the AM dial, he said.
The Federal Communications Commission must sign off on the sale of the station and transfer of the broadcast license, Hennen said, which he expected to be in three to six months.
“It’s an opportunity for a fresh start,” said Hennen.
The Flag will be merged with Bakken Beacon Media, which runs a website and radio station AM 1190 KTGO in Tioga, Hennen said.
He said that The Flag will begin physically moving in the next few weeks to his offices and studios at 3301 S. University Drive in Fargo.
He said no one will lose a job in the purchase of The Flag, though at least one employee will remain to work with the cluster of three other radio stations The Flag used to be part of in downtown Fargo.
Hennen said he doesn’t feel 101.9 FM TALK, the new conservative talk-radio station created from the former classic rock station Rock 102, will be significant competition for his audience. He said only about 20 percent of listeners in the conservative talk niche are likely to switch back and forth between the AM and FM radio bands.
However, Tom Becka, the program director and 6 to 9 a.m. on-air personality for 101.9, said Hennen may have bought himself the radio version of a deck chair on the Titanic.
“Fifty-four percent of the radio audience doesn’t even go to the AM dial. If they do go to the AM, they go to KFGO or WDAY. Our universe is so much bigger,” Becka said.
“I think the owners of The Flag saw the writing on the wall, and they got out while they could,” he said. “In this market, and this day and age, you can’t make it as a stand-alone AM station.”
In its lineup, 101.9 also has the still-reigning king of conservative talk, Rush Limbaugh, Becka said.
“They have a very tough row to hoe,” he said. “They’ve got nothing.”
Nonetheless, Becka welcomed the competition from Hennen and The Flag.
Hennen used Thursday’s time on the air to tell listeners his version of that back- and-forth relationship with The Flag.
He founded the station in 2008. In short order, three other stations were purchased – Thunder 106.1 (country), AM 890 AgNews and FM 106.9 The Eagle (classic rock) – as well as a building downtown on Broadway to house the studios.
He said the growth was “too big, too fast,” and came as the U.S. slid into recession, and revenues declined.
His investment group removed him as president and CEO of Great Plains Integrated Marketing in 2010. They agreed to keep his program on the air until his high-profile firing in May 2011, when his was show was cut off – going to dead air as he told listeners the station was dropping his show.
He said pride may have caused him to lose focus, and that the experience has been humbling.
“From a career standpoint … I’ve been in the desert,” Hennen said. “I’ve learned a lot.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583
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