A Heritage Hudson Valley AM Prepares For A Noncomm Shift

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Kingston, N.Y., the first capital of New York State, is experiencing a millennial-driven renaissance of sorts, reversing some two decades of economic decline for this former IBM town. Even so, challenges remain — including the operation of a longtime 1kw facility airing a Full Service format overseen by a veteran employee who seems to do it all.


That’s why Townsquare Media has decided to sell WKNY-AM 1490. 

It’s the lead deal in RBR+TVBR‘s TRANSACTIONS TODAY for Thursday, August 3. And, it’s prompted a special RBR+TVBR OBSERVATION from our editor-in-chief. WKNY is in his hometown, and was the very first radio station he ever visited.

In a transaction valued at $500,000, Radio Kingston Corp. is purchasing WKNY, a 1kw Class C facility that airs Classic Hits when live and local in morning drive, and satellite-delivered Adult Contemporary music in other dayparts. It is also a CBS News Radio affiliate serving the Mid-Hudson Valley.

The buyer is a nonprofit led by Chair Peter Buffett. Among the others involved is Jimmy Buff, who was the 20-year PD/morning host of WDST-FM “Radio Woodstock” in nearby Woodstock, N.Y., until the end of June. Buff will serve as Executive Director of Radio Kingston Corp. and host a show on WKNY, following the closing of this transaction.

Buff will oversee a reinvented WKNY, one that is a noncommercial entity “dedicated solely to a vibrant, just and healthy Kingston, offering programming centered around community storytelling, artistic and musical expression, conversation and connection.”

In a press release distributed by Buff, RKC explained, “At a time when growing polarization, media consolidation, privatization and exploitation of community resources threaten the basic fabric of local communities, Radio Kingston hopes to demonstrate that a radically different path is possible. It will create a space for residents to build renewed trust, empathy and connection, while celebrating our shared strengths and creativity, and deepening a truly local conversation about creating a community that works better for everyone.”

The transition of WKNY to noncomm status comes following a unique, and successful, listener support drive at WDST conducted to combat higher expenses and dimished ad revenue at the independently owned Adult Alternative station.

WKNY’s programming will feature “music, conversation, spoken-word performances, educational programming and more.” It will host a series of community meetings this autumn to gather ideas for new programming, and will also set up a website and digital platforms to foster continual conversation and feedback in real time. Buff expects new programming to begin to emerge in early 2018.

Radio Kingston will receive support from The Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley, through a grant from The NoVo Foundation, co-created Peter Buffett and his wife, Jennifer.

A $50,000 escrow deposit has been made to Townsquare, which operated the AM as a semi-autonomous entity tied to its Poughkeepsie, N.Y., cluster.

Andrew Guest of Guest Technology served as the broker and technical advisor for Radio Kingston Corp. Guest tells RBR+TVBR that RKC will be seeking an FM translator for WKNY.

WKNY first went on the air in 1939.


RBR+TVBR OBSERVATION: It’s always bittersweet when something that’s a part of your life, or was once a part of your life, disappears. Kingston, N.Y., has seen many things disappear, from family-owned businesses to a major IBM plant that closed some 25 years ago, sending the local economy into a tailspin. A real recovery never came until mid-2015; it was perhaps too late for WKNY, a resilient 1kw AM radio station that has served this community and most of Ulster County since 1939. In the early 1980s it was an AC reporter to Radio & Records, which some 15-20 years later profiled the station and its longtime Jack-of-all-Trades, PD/morning host/midday voice/weekend air talent Warren Lawrence. He’s still there after more than 40 years, and he’s expected to stick around when WKNY transitions to a revolutionary new noncomm. Unlike State Fish Corp., the family-run business that our editor’s grandparents founded, or forgotten retailers such as L. Alcon Shoe Retailers — another family-run business that closed in 1962 but is still remembered by long-time residents — WKNY lives on. And, it’s doing it in a revolutionary way that could blaze a new trail for AMs in small but vibrant cities that may not be big billers, but could be big void-fillers with respect to local content. WKNY is “The Kingston Station,” and it will continue to be. It’s the very first station our editor ever stepped in, at its former Fair Street studios, at age 7. Going on the air was petrifying; it’s a memory all radio industry professionals can relate to. Considering the disappearance of all of its former competitors, from WNBC-AM to “Musicradio 77” to WKBW in Buffalo to crosstown WGHQ-AM 920 under the late Walter C. Maxwell, WKNY is still here. And, thanks to Buff and Buffett, it will be — hopefully for years to come.


 

In other TRANSACTIONS TODAY:

  • WWWD-FM in Bolingbroke, Ga., is being acquired by Radio Training Network from George S. Flinn Jr. for $475,000. Serving as the exclusive broker in this transaction, representing Mr. Flinn, is Eddie Esserman of Media Services Group.

 

  • Southern TV Corporation, parent of WGSA-35 in the Savannah, Ga., market, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Case No. 17-40134-EJC has been assigned to a court-ordered bankruptcy proceeding, and the auction date is scheduled for Aug. 31 before Judge Edward J. Coleman in Savannah, GA. Parties that wish to attend and bid are asked to present your financial qualifications at this time to Doyle Hadden at Hadden & Associates via e-mail at [email protected]. WGSA was The CW affiliate for Savannah until April 2016. It is presently an independent full-signal facility.

 

  • Delta 2000, a California non-profit, is being given an unbuilt noncommercial FM at 89.5 MHz in Tracy, Calif., from the Peace and Justice Network of San Joaquin Valley. 

 

  • Crawford Broadcasting has closed on its purchase of WCHB-AM 1200 in Detroit Michigan from Radio One for $2 million. Michael J. Bergner of Bergner & Co. was the exclusive broker in this transaction.