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Will WBAI New York Be Coming On The Market?

99.5 WBAI New York Sale Signal Frequency Swap Pacifica Foundation 94.1 KPFA San FranciscoIn a report about the financial difficulties surrounding the Pacifica Foundation and its stations, TheVillager.com states that one of the plans the board of directors repetitively floated would be to swap the Class B signal of 99.5 WBAI New York located at the top of the Empire State Building for a lesser signal and cash. Otherwise station may need to even temporarily go dark at the end of the year for the inability to pay the rent for its transmitter.

According to P.N.B. member Tracy Rosenberg, a former New Yorker now representing Berkeley radio station KPFA, board members have been considering either temporarily shutting down WBAI at the end of the year when its lease runs out, or swapping the signal for another, weaker one — as the former New York Times-owned WQXR did some years ago — in return for cash, but at the cost of a much weaker signal. The most recent offer for a “signal swap” made public a few years ago included an offer of more than $100 million to Pacifica.

There are a few possibile suitors that could give up a not as good signal in New York and gain the stronger 99.5 in return.

Would CBS swap one of its 50kw AM’s to add an additional FM in New York? The company is maxed out in the market with 3 AM’s, 3 FM’s, and 2 TV’s but would the allure of shifting Sports WFAN or one of its two AM All-News stations to FM be worth it?

Cumulus could offer 770 WABC or recent move-in 103.9 WFAS-FM Bronxville which puts a city grade signal over the northern half of Manhattan, all of The Bronx, the northern tip of Queens in New York City itself.

Univision has 1280 WADO or suburban 92.7 WQBU Garden City as possibilities.

Any third party could engage the possibly on the market 94.7 WFME Newark where the new party adds 99.5 and WBAI goes to 94.7. The only company that can be completely ruled out is Clear Channel, which is maxed out with 5 full powered FM’s in New York.

A similar scenario could end up in play in San Francisco, where Pacifica also operates a full powered Class B on the commercial part of the FM band in 94.1 KPFA Berkeley. The Pacifica Foundation also operates non-commercial FM’s in Houston, Los Angeles, and Washington DC.

Profile photo of Lance Venta
Lance Venta is the Owner and Publisher of RadioInsight.com and a consultant for RadioBB Networks specializing in integration of radio and the internet. Lance has two decades of experience tracking the audio industry and its use of digital platforms.

11 Comments


  1. I’m thinking EMF and the K-Love station on 96.7

  2. Profile photo of MattParker


    Since WBAI is a non-commercial station, they could swap into the non-commercial band. Personally, I’d like to see WFUV get itself a decent, market-covering signal. The Big IF of course is could they get the money to bail Pacifica out of debt? Of course, the Pacifica board might be more sympathetic to an offer from a public broadcaster and be willing to play let’s make a deal with Fordham.
    It has to be said: WBAI and the other Pacifica stations brought this on themselves. They seemed always to be more interested in infighting than in broadcasting. They showed what happens when radio stations are more focused on themselves than on their (potential) audience. Radio is (or should be) for people who listen to the radio, not for the people who want to be on the radio. Even non-commercial radio.
    This also shows too much of anything – even, maybe especially democracy – can be a bad thing.


  3. I think 99.5 in New York will end up with a commercial broadcaster.

    And perhaps country music might finally return to New York!

    😉


    • I should have also noted above that I can’t see Pacifica getting a big AM station in return for 99.5. It may cost them a lot more to maintain a big AM transmitting site than renting space for an FM tower and antenna.

      Sorry for not adding this to my prior post.

      • Profile photo of Lance Venta


        Good point about the AM transmission facilities and their costs.

        Based on potential partners and companies looking to grow, I’d put my own money on a Cumulus swap for 103.9 WFAS and anywhere from $40 to $80 Million.


  4. I’m thinking Pacifica Foundation needs new people running the place. They have too many internal issues and no one is focusing on the urgent matters at hand.

    • Profile photo of MattParker


      That’s the problem. A bunch of “activists” and each thinks his “agenda” IS the most important matter at hand. No one can run the place because they can’t get together on who should run the place. It’s a circular firing squad and nobody dares open fire. Besides, they are all having too much fun arguing.


  5. WFUV went through major hassles to rebuild its own transmitter site in the Bronx. There’s also the touchy matter of a Catholic school leasing its site to a broadcaster that might be critical of the Church. Apart from that, a swap of 90.7 and 99.5 makes sense.

    As for country music? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Not happening in New York. Can’t sell it to big-city advertisers.

    • Profile photo of MattParker


      Can’t or won’t? Radio suits often say “can’t” when the truth is “won’t.” Most local buys in New York are through agencies. The same agencies that buy country music radio everywhere else. Agency media buyers buy numbers, not formats. When country has been tried in New York, it delivered numbers. The biggest obstacle to country (and other formats) is the steeped-in prejudice of hard-headed radio suits who think it’s 1962 and they can make choices for listeners. All they are doing is driving people who can’t find what they want on terrestrial radio to satellite or the Internet.


  6. Cumulus already sold 103.9 to EMF (K-Love) so that’s off the table. I don’t see a WFUV swap happening. Maybe someone new comes in and grabs 94.7 and 99.5?

    • Profile photo of Lance Venta


      Cumulus still owns 103.9 WFAS.

      Cox sold what was 96.7 WCTZ Port Chester to EMF in 2011.

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