Long Island University’s radio station WCWP, may have something to celebrate come December. Announced late Tuesday, their once affiliated station, WLIU-88.3 may be no more, due to an $850,000 purchase of the license and broadcasting equipment.
Long Island University has owned the license to, and operated, a radio station out in South Hampton for 20 years. This station, 88.3 WLIU, the only NPR based radio station in New York (all others are based in Connecticut) was put up for sale by LIU in 2009.
After many delays and negotiations, a local based East End company called Peconic Public Broadcasting (PPB), has finally come up with the means to buy the broadcast license of WLIU-FM, and is becoming the newest radio station on Long Island. PPB, which was formed by employees of the radio station and a small group of supporters, won the right to purchase the licenses and equipment with a closed bid of more than $800,000 last October. Many of these employees worked without pay for a few weeks in January in order to help Peconic come up with this money.
The deal was initially supposed to be completed by the end of June. However, with the help of U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, PPB secured an additional month to come up with the money. With the deadline that was supposed to be met by WLIU station manager and PPB founder Wally Smith approaching, Mr. Smith was forced to tell LIU he did not have the sufficient funds to purchase the station. That is when West Hampton resident Len Conway, who put together a fundraising effort to save the Westhampton Performing Arts Center years ago, came into play. With Mr. Conway’s help, the rest of the funds were available, and PPB made payments of $213,00 to LIU.
The final step was to have The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approve the transfer of the broadcast license for WLIU-88.3 FM from Long Island University to PPB, clearing the way for a closed deal.
On October 16th, the FCC approved the purchase, pushing the deal into the final stages. “This is an exciting moment and very satisfying achievement,” said Mr. Smith in a statement late Tuesday, to 27East.com, a website related to South Hampton press. “We are so grateful to everyone who worked on this, contributing and supporting our efforts.” Mr. Smith however, never returned any calls from the Pioneer to personally comment on the matter.
The final step in the process of the license purchase would include something called “public notice period and comment.” This means that the public can comment on the purchase being made of their local radio station, and whether they find it to be a negative or positive change. If any resident feels PPB is going to have a negative impact, the commissioner will reconsider the deal, and WLIU will stay operated by LIU.
As of right now, there is $637,000 in an escro account. This money came from donations: mainly from Bridgehampton National Bank, private sources, and one unknown source. “It’s like buying a house” said Dan Cox, the station manager of WCWP. “When the FCC sends the final notice of closing the school will get that money.”
Long Island University students and staff at WCWP, have their own thoughts on what they know of the buying and selling of WLIU. “We just want some of the money” said senior Max Caster, the Sports Director of WCWP. If WLIU is sold, that money in the escro account will go to Long Island University as a whole, and distribution amongst the affiliated branches and departments will be known. “I just hope from the sale, WCWP will benefi,t” said Media Arts adjunct professor, Maura Bernard.
Some students however are hoping that at least half of that escro will go to WCWP, which, although is getting an upgrade as far as the building goes, hasn’t seen upgrades in equipment in 20 years. Christina Kay, the Program Director, feels very strongly about the whole situation. “We need that escro money to fix up WCWP. We are supposed to help people get into the radio field and we have old equipment. We need at least half of the money to do the upgrading.” Kay continued to say, “I don’t think they can say this because they are staff, but I think they want it sold because it was becoming stressful to go all the way out to South Hampton all the time.”
Elena Dimarco, the News Director of WCWP took a more emotional approach to what she thinks about PPB buying WLIU. “I didn’t like seeing my professors stressed out, so I assumed it was a good idea.” This change of hands, which is due to be final sometime in December, wont effect Dimarco a senior who is in her last semester. However, she did have this to say, “I love this place, I would love to see it get more money and resources for the students who are continuing their education here.”
Currently, Long Island Universities Board of Trustees still own the licenses to both WLIU and WCWP. “Public Peconic Broadcasting will own WLIU,” said Cox. As for now, the public notice and comment period is over, so it is unsure to say whether the deal and the money is a definite.