WPPB To Be Sold to NY-Based Public Television Company

The little National Public Radio station that could in Southampton is on its way to becoming part of a major metropolitan public broadcasting company.

Peconic Public Broadcasting, WPPB, at 88.3 on the FM dial, is in contract to be sold to WNET, the Manhattan-based owners of the PBS television stations Thirteen and WLIW21.

The stations entered a $944,834 asset purchase agreement on Oct. 17, and WNET was slated to begin participating in the operation of the station at noon on Nov. 1, according to documents on file with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The sale must be approved by the FCC and the transfer of the radio station’s assets to WNET must be approved by the New York State Attorney General’s office before the companies close on the deal.

WPPB’s executives are unable to comment on the sale during the regulatory review, and they referred questions to WNET Chief Marketing & Engagement Officer Kellie Specter, who said both the FCC and the Attorney General processes are expected to take 60 to 90 days, and they are happening concurrently.

“WNET began participating in the operation of that station on Nov. 1. Until the regulatory approvals are granted, PPB remains the operator,” said Ms. Specter. 

She added that no decisions have been made yet on whether the station would change its call letters or other aspects of WPPB’s operations.

The Asset Purchase Agreement states that WNET “shall not, directly or indirectly, control, supervise or direct the operations of the Station prior to Closing. Such operations, including complete control and supervision of all programs, employees and policies, shall be the sole responsibility of Seller.”

Peconic Public Broadcasting has long prided itself on being Long Island’s only National Public Radio station — a designation that comes with it the hefty cost of paying for NPR programming.

It also has its own eclectic mix of programming, with DJs Ed German and Brian Cosgrove spinning jazz and soul and Americana music, and a morning show, “The Heart of the East End” with Gianna Volpe, which intersperses local news and guests with a wide-ranging playlist. 

Ms. Volpe’s show began earlier this year, in the same time slot as long-time station host Bonnie Grice’s Eclectic Café. Ms. Grice left the station this spring and has since become affiliated with Sag Harbor station WLNG.

According to public financial documents, WPPB ran at an operating loss of $233,924 in 2018, down from a loss of $161,111 in 2017. The station had -$247,082 in net assets at the end of 2018, down from -$33,481 in net assets at the end of 2017.

By contrast, WNET, which calls itself “America’s flagship PBS station,” had more than $153 million in revenue and $116.5 million in expenses in 2017, with total net assets of $290.6 million, according to public financial statements.

The station now known as WPPB began its life as a college club at the Southampton campus of Long Island University, initially as WSCR and then as WPBX in 1980, during which time it was a student-run mix of underground programming, operating as a ‘carrier current station,’ a common college station type that does not require an FCC license. 

In 2002, the station changed its call letters to WLIU and began to play mostly jazz programming, and it operated out of a studio on the second floor of Chancellor’s Hall at the LIU campus. 

After LIU-Southampton closed and its property was transferred to Stony Brook University, employees at the station began a broad community effort to turn it into a community NPR station, which changed its name to Peconic Public Broadcasting and moved off-campus to its current location on Hill Street in Southampton Village.

WNET has three public television stations — Channel 13, WLIW21, and NJTV in New Jersey, which “brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each week,” according to its website. WPPB would be its first radio station.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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