May 31, 2001 — "Radio Free St. Croix," Mario Moorhead’s latest venture on the airwaves, is off the air this week, apparently because of a lack of advertising.
Moorhead started broadcasting on St. Croix’s WAXJ-FM 103.5 in early March. The move was made possible by a $60,000 contract last January between Moorhead and the Virgin Islands Senate. The contract called for Moorhead to broadcast Sens. Adelbert Bryan and Alicia "Chucky" Hansen’s committee hearings live and provide commentary on those meetings plus sessions of the full 24th Legislature.
Moorhead’s $60,000 contract –– with $30,000 paid up front –– is being paid with public funds from the Senate. Along with the Senate coverage, Moorhead was to operate and manage WAXJ-FM 103.5, owned by Hugh Pemberton. But according to a source familiar with the territory’s radio industry, Pemberton has apparently pulled the plug on WAXJ – at least temporarily.
The station has been off the air since Sunday, reportedly because of Moorhead's inability to raise funds to cover the air time for the station’s programming other than the Senate committee hearings chaired by Bryan and Hansen.
On Wednesday, WAXJ was simulcasting programing from Pemberton’s WRRA-AM station.
A call to WAXJ was answered by an employee who said Moorhead was not at the station. The employee said the station was simulcasting WRRA programming "for the week" and that "only Mr. Pemberton could give you the reason for that."
Pemberton couldn’t be reached for comment.
In recent years, Moorhead hosted shows at several St. Croix radio stations, including WSTX, 1290 AM, Mongoose 104.3 and Pemberton’s WRRA.
Although Moorhead was contracted to cover the two Senate committees for $60,000 over two years, that wasn’t enough to cover the remainder of the airtime on WAXJ. The contract is for Moorhead, not the radio station, and reads: "Contractor will operate and manage a radio station broadcasting in the Virgin Islands under the call letters WAXJ-103.5 FM, which will focus on community affairs-oriented programs."
Last February, Moorhead said the least expensive air time that can be bought on any radio station in the territory is $300 an hour. He said the $30,000 paid earlier this year under the contract with the Senate could be gone in a month at the $300-an-hour rate.
Under the terms of the contract, Moorhead was paid half up front with the balance due by Jan. 30, 2002. Bryan and Hansen chipped in $15,000 each from their Senate allotments to pay the first half of Moorhead’s contract.
In the past the Legislature has allotted money from the Senate operating budget — and in some years, $1,000 from each senator's allotment — to nonprofit radio station WIUJ-102.9 FM to air Senate proceedings. That coverage has recently been spotty because of wrangling over a contract between WIUJ owner Leo Moron and Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd.
Moron couldn’t be reached for comment on Wednesday about the status of his contract or if he plans to continue Senate coverage.


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