- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Washington Nationals are hurriedly renegotiating their once-imminent radio pact with Clear Channel Communications after the broadcasting giant walked away from the deal last weekend.

The two sides drew up a memorandum of understanding two weeks ago in which WTEM (AM-980) would have served as the team’s flagship station and Clear Channel would have provided the club extensive promotion over its seven other area stations.

But according to industry sources, the document was never signed; upon review, Clear Channel lawyers found several key elements missing in the proposed revenue-sharing accord.

Executives for the Nationals and Clear Channel, who declined to comment last night, are slated to meet this morning in an attempt to resurrect the deal. But the Nationals also have resumed negotiations with Infinity Broadcasting, with whom the team conducted preliminary talks about a radio deal late last year.

“Whether it’s Clear Channel or it’s Infinity, this team will be on the air,” a source close to the team said.

Complicating the issue is the recent departure of Corey Busch, a Nationals consultant who negotiated the framework of the agreement with Clear Channel. Formerly Major League Baseball’s point man on relocation, Busch has joined one of the prospective Nationals ownership groups.

Meanwhile, the Nationals’ local television situation appears no closer to clarity. Industry sources said negotiations between the Baltimore Orioles and Major League Baseball over a compensation deal remain stuck, and the two sides have not conducted meaningful talks since the owners’ meeting two weeks ago in Arizona.

MLB, seeking to avoid a nasty court battle with owner Peter Angelos, was to provide the Orioles a hefty package of benefits that included guarantees to the team’s annual local revenue and future resale value, as well as a majority stake in a new regional sports network. The Nationals were slated to appear on that network. The Orioles and MLB, however, have been unable to agree on several key deal points, including how long the benefits last.

With the Orioles talks stuck and frustration rising within MLB’s New York headquarters, baseball officials have begun to explore other short-term TV distribution options for the Nationals.

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