Wednesday, December 19, 2007

WAMC, NCPR, Cash Flow, and Power

Call me crazy, but do you really think FCC would grant WAMC's (or Northeast Gospel Broadcasting's) competing full-power application over North Country Public Radio's full-power application?
I doubt it.
Not least because it would cause irreparable harm to the legacy broadcaster -- NCPR -- which already inhabits the frequency (albeit with a translator).
This doesn't mean NCPR won't have to go through all the motions, the paperwork, the presentations, a possible hearing, and of course, a bankroll in legal fees.
It will.
It does mean, though, that when it's all over, all things being equal, NCPR will likely end-up with the full-power license while WAMC and NGB will likely drop their respective applications in exchange for something of equivalent value.
There may even be need to call upon Congressman John McHugh (Republican) to have a long talk with Congressmen Maurice Hinchey and Michael McNulty (both Democrats -- Hinchey is also a WAMC Trustee).
Remember, this is all just business and politics -- the quest for listeners' ears, their wallets, the underwriters that cater to those wallets, and votes.
This has nothing to do with public radio, and everything to do with cash flow and power.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you catch this posted on another bolg ?

Radio stations in frequency flap
North Country Radio, WAMC seeking 91.7 spot on FM dial
Friday, December 14, 2007By Jeff Wilkin (Contact)
Gazette Reporter

Officials at North Country Public Radio say part of their operation in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks is being threatened by a fellow public broadcaster — Albany’s Northeast Public Radio, WAMC.

Alan Chartock, president and CEO of WAMC, says he is astounded by North Country’s stance and statements.

The contentious behavior is over North Country’s 91.7 position on the FM band — a frequency now up for grabs through the Federal Communications Commission. WAMC wants to move in; North Country wants to hold its place on the dial in Lake Placid, Keene, Keene Valley and St. Hubert’s.

“I’ve got to say I’m shocked because to me this is so against the grain of the spirit of public service that inheres in the public radio system,” Ellen Rocco, station manager at North Country Public Radio, said Thursday. “Why any station would expend scarce public resources to displace an extremely successful, highly service-oriented public radio service in a core community of its coverage area to bring their own signal in is beyond me.”

Chartock said he was “astounded” at North Country Public Radio’s reaction to the WAMC application for the 91.7 position.

“We have never had anything but good feelings when they’ve come into our area,” he said. “They’ve applied for licenses in Saratoga, in Glens Falls, in Lake George and we have been invited by many, many people who think we are a superior radio station to come into the Lake Placid area who are used to getting our signal and who cannot under present circumstances. So we did what everyone else did, we looked for the available full-power license when they opened up the window and we applied on that frequency.”

The disagreement began earlier this fall, when the FCC decided to allow non-commercial broadcasters to apply for new transmitters in the limited, non-commercial portion of the FM band. The applications had not been permitted for several years.

The only frequency available for full-power broadcasting in Lake Placid — North Country is located about an hour away, at St. Lawrence University in Canton — is 91.7. The station broadcasts through a “translator,” a less powerful version of a transmitter. In addition to Lake Placid, programming is heard in North Creek, Blue Mountain Lake, Old Forge, Schroon Lake and 25 other communities.

“Under the FCC’s current guidelines, if you are operating on a translator versus a full-power transmitter, you are not protected from being wiped off the air by an applicant for a full-power transmitter,” Rocco said.

She added North Country officials decided to apply for a power upgrade to protect station interests. The station also has applied for other unused frequencies, along with WAMC and Vermont Public Radio.

“We were concerned a religious broadcaster might try to take over that frequency if we didn’t upgrade to a full-power transmitter,” Rocco said. “What came as a really kind of a breathtaking surprise was that Alan Chartock and WAMC applied for the 91.7 frequency. There are three of us in the mix right now, Gospel Broadcasting Network [of Chattanooga, Tenn.], WAMC and North Country Public Radio.”

She considers the scenario unusual because one public radio station could be displaced by another public radio station.

“That is what makes this case extraordinary,” Rocco said, “and we’ve been on that frequency for 21 years and there are no other full-power frequencies available in Lake Placid.”

It’s not a question of being angry at Chartock and the WAMC application.

“I don’t find it shocking religious broadcasters want that frequency, they have a different mission,” Rocco said. “But for a station we supposedly share a mission with — to provide the highest-quality public radio service to the American public — is kind of beyond me.”

Chartock does not believe North Country Public Radio will vanish if the FCC approves the WAMC application for 91.7.

“We don’t want them to go away,” he said. “We believe in choice. We believe that the best thing would be for the people of the Adirondacks to have choices, that’s why we didn’t object when they came into Saratoga or those other places, because we think the listener is best served who has more than one choice. And believe me, we do very different kinds of programing than they do.”

Chartock said his engineers have told him the North Country translator signal would survive a WAMC placement on the 91.7 frequency, if the North Country signal moved a few digits on the radio dial.

“People aren’t stupid, particularly public radio listeners,” he said, adding they would find a station’s new location. And there would be time to publicize any move to another frequency. “They’ll be able to do all kinds of public relations, ‘Look for us two digits down the dial,’ ” Chartock said.

Rocco doesn’t want to move anywhere.

“We’ve invested local dollars, state and public dollars in developing a relationship with listeners and a sort of connection through 91.7,” she said. “It’s a big investment, two decades of building audience as 91.7, so we don’t consider there’s a viable option for us.”

The application period ends in early January. Rocco said the FCC encourages applicants to negotiate solutions to frequency disputes between themselves. “They don’t want the headache of adjudicating all these conflicting applications,” she said.

Multiple applications for the same frequencies in communities across the country can mean long delays before the FCC reaches final decisions. Both Rocco and Chartock said it could take years in the 91.7 case.

“If we can work something out before January 7, that’s what we would hope for,” Rocco said. “If not, it goes to the FCC and gets adjudicated by them.”

Chartock maintains the question is not “either-or.”

“The question is, ‘Why can’t we have both?’ ” he said. “And the answer is, we can.”

He does not expect WAMC to drop out. “I can tell you unless there’s a compelling reason for us to drop out, and I don’t see it,” Chartock said, “so far, what they’ve said is ‘OK, we’ll take the full-power and you take the translator that we’ve got right now, that’s the offer’ … what it seems to be all about is the full-power and not the translator.”

If North Country Public Radio is ousted, Rocco said, she believes listeners will voice displeasure.

“If that happened, my guess is we would not have to ask people to weigh in, we think it would happen pretty dramatically,” she said. “If they lost North Country Public Radio, I don’t think we’d have to ask anyone to do anything. I think it would happen quite spontaneously.”

Thursday, December 20, 2007 10:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Daily Gazette has a great editorial in todays (12/20/2007)newspaper....can not find it to post on line....

Thursday, December 20, 2007 10:55:00 AM  

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