Fate of radio station hinges on $300,000

Morning news host Michael Mackey (seated) and station manager Wally Smith at the 88.3 FM radio studio in Southampton.

Peconic Public Broadcasting Inc., the group that currently runs Long Island’s only National Public Radio affiliate, remains $300,000 short of nearly $640,000 needed to purchase the station from Long Island University by the agreed-upon Aug. 31 deadline.

And LIU has said that if the group cannot meet the already extended deadline, the university will offer the station’s license and equipment to the next highest bidder, who they declined to name.

With only 12 days left until the cutoff date, 88.3 FM station manager Wally Smith said a group of volunteers has been contacting potential donors in the community who might be willing to help the cause.

“We’re still getting pledges and we’re getting people who are interested in helping us,” he said.

Mr. Smith said that if Peconic Public Broadcasting can raise an additional $200,000 to $250,000 in donations and pledges, he is certain the station can finance the difference. The group has already made more than $150,000 in payments to the university, which it will lose if the deal falls through.

If a deal cannot be reached with any buyer, according to an LIU spokesperson, the station will likely continue to broadcast, using automated pre-recorded material.

Mr. Smith noted that funding cannot be solicited on air because of Federal Communications Commission guidelines.

Peconic Public Broadcasting, which was formed last year, beat out two other suitors and signed a $2.4 million deal in October to purchase the station from LIU. At that time, the group signed a letter of intent with the university to purchase the station for about $850,000 in cash, with the rest coming in services.

The group, headed by current staffers at the Southampton-based public radio station, has been operating under the call letters WPPB since then.

LIU had run the station for over 20 years from its Southampton campus, which it sold to Stony Brook University in 2006. The school announced its intention to sell the station last year, citing $1 million in annual losses, including rent the school has been paying to Stony Brook.

WLIU is Long Island’s only NPR affiliate and serves eastern Long Island and southeastern Connecticut. Programming includes a mix of local news, jazz and classical music and syndicated NPR shows, such as “Morning Edition” and “Car Talk.”

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