Small-town radio station given to smallest NPR station

By GERRY HARRINGTON, United Press International   |   Dec. 31, 2013 at 1:30 AM   |   0 comments

KINGSTON, N.Y., Dec. 31 (UPI) -- A struggling small-town radio station has a new lease on life after its owner gave it to the smallest NPR station in the United States rather than shut it down.

WGHQ-AM, Kingston, N.Y., will start broadcasting as part of non-profit WHDD-FM, Sharon, Conn., known as "Robin Hood Radio," Tuesday or New Year's Day, officials of both stations said.

The ownership change, viewed among fans as snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, is a result of a last-minute deal in which WGHQ owner Pamal Broadcasting Ltd. agreed to donate the station's license and transmitter to WHDD owner Tri-State Public Communications Inc., Tri-State co-founder Marshall Miles told United Press International.

The papers were signed Monday, he said.

Tri-State will initially operate the station under a local marketing agreement with Pamal, pending Federal Communications Commission approval.

"This all accomplished the major goal of keeping WGHQ on-air in Kingston," Miles said on Facebook. "And it was done in under a week! Christmas Week!"

Pamal, of Latham, N.Y., in the Albany area, owns medium- to small-market stations, mostly in the Northeast.

It announced Dec. 20 it would shutter financially struggling WGHQ at the end of the year.

But Pamal owner and President James J. Morrell changed his mind last week after Miles, who worked for WGHQ in the 1970s, approached him with the idea of donating the station to Tri-State to keep it from going dark.

"We said we thought it was a shame to see the signal go away," Miles told UPI, explaining he thought saving one of Kingston's two remaining community-focused stations was just as important as saving the city's historic buildings.

"I think, deep down, he thought the same thing," Miles said of Morrell.

Morrell was unavailable for comment, his assistant told UPI.

From the late 1950s to the mid-1960s WGHQ was part of the now-defunct New York Herald Tribune Radio Network, and into the 1970s it was the final broadcast home of Mary Margaret McBride, known at the time as "the First Lady of Radio."

The station, operating from the second floor of a pre-Revolutionary War stone building, developed a strong community identity over the years but struggled financially in the 1990s with the proliferation of FM stations, and owner Walter C. Maxwell and his family sold it in 1999.

When the new owners ended the local talk format a couple of years later, Maxwell, a former chairman of the New York State Broadcasters Association, started non-profit Kingston Community Radio Inc. to keep Kingston-focused radio alive, he told UPI.

Pamal bought the station in 2007.

KCR leases 2 hours of WGHQ morning drive time from Pamal and will now lease the time from Tri-State, whose WHDD bills itself as "the smallest NPR station in the nation."

Miles said he and co-founder Jill Goodman were happy to take over WGHQ. Most of WHDD's programming is locally originated, so KCR's local focus fits right in, he said.

"It is a small risk, but it's a good thing to happen," Miles said. "When you do good things, it all comes around," he said.

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