A classic among radio stations remains on air

Dec. 11, 1985
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GLOUCESTER, Mass. -- A broadcaster who won an 11-year battle to keep his one-man classical radio station on the air says his victory means he can finally go ahead with plans to marry his long-time sweetheart.

'I couldn't support her before. Now that I know that I have the license, I know I can support her,' said Simon Geller, 65, who has operated WVCA-FM since 1964.

Geller said the Tuesday decision by the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday to renew his license gives him the confidence to call Carol Hill, 55, of Brooklyn, N.Y., and propose.

'I've asked her before but she said, 'No,' up to now. But she may have had the same reason I had. She knew I couldn't support us,' said Geller, who met Hill when he was 36 years old.

Geller said he spent Tuesday fielding telephone calls from listeners who congratulated him on his victory.

'I'm relieved,' said Geller. 'It should have happened in 1979. It shouldn't have taken 11 years.'

Geller's problems began in 1974 when Grandbanke Corp., a group of New England radio station owners, challenged his license in an effort to operate a folk-rock station.

Grandbanke charged that WVCA-FM broadcast 99.8 percent symphonic music despite FCC requirements that station owners ascertain issues of community interest and air news and public affairs programming.

A federal appeals court in June 1984 ordered the FCC to reconsider the case and Tuesday's decision effectively denies Grandbanke's competing application.

WVCA is a commercial station, but Geller carries advertising from only four local businesses and is supported primarily by listener contributions. The station is potentially lucrative, however, because its coverage area extends as far as Boston and New Hampshire.

Geller serves as station manager, program director and ad salesman at WVCA and represented himself in a 'comparative hearing' before the commission in the 1970s, when an administrative law judge recommended that he be permitted to keep the license.

The FCC, however, voted in May 1982 to deny the renewal, saying although Geller deserved preference because he owned no other media properties and brought diversity to the listening area, he had not adequately ascertained community needs.

Community groups in Gloucester, a town of 26,000, charged that Grandbanke was given the license for political reasons. One of the challengers was a former state Republican Committee chairman and the commission is dominated by Republican appointees.

In sending the case back to the FCC, the court agreed Geller did not warrant special consideration for past performance, but criticized the commission for giving too little weight to the diversity and integration issues.

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