By Karl Henkel
In what could be a landmark case, Judge Charles E. Brown of Stark County Common Pleas Court denied an injunction request by local radio station WDJQ-FM, which sought to silence two former hosts who launched their own online radio station.
The hosts started the online station after leaving WDJQ earlier this year. WDJQ had said their actions violated a noncompetition clause.
“It’s definitely a first-of-its-kind thing,” said Atty. Steve Okey of the Canton-based Okey Law Firm, who represented the former hosts, Patrick DeLuca and Charlotte DiFranco, formerly of WDJQ. “I’ve found no cases like this anywhere in the country.”
WDJQ, also known as Q92, is a contemporary-hit music station heard in both the Canton and Youngstown markets.
DeLuca and DiFranco hosted the top-rated “DeLuca In The Morning” show for six years at the station but vacated their morning time slot in February after unsuccessful contract negotiations.
The terms of their previous contract, like many in the industry, barred the duo from any on-air duties at terrestrial radio stations within 60 miles of the Canton market.
DeLuca and DiFranco, however, started their own radio station, available online at www.theradiosucks.com, broadcasting three live shows weekly during the past two months.
WDJQ sued the duo, claiming a one-year noncompetition provision survived the expiration of their contracts and prevented DeLuca and DiFranco from streaming any show on the Internet.
Okey, however, argued the noncompetition language prohibited DeLuca and DiFranco only from running a business that was “the same or essentially the same as a commercial radio station.”
Don A. Peterson III, radio station general manager, said, “[The station is] disappointed with the court’s interpretation of the agreement, and [we] plan to review our options once we receive the written decision.”
Okey said there is a possibility Peterson and the station could file an appeal of the judge’s ruling.