New Talk Radio on the FM Dial

Station offering local and national news could be up and running by the spring

    An owner of four radio stations in Connecticut and one in Burlington, Vt., is planning to start a new station in Montauk that will broadcast at 94.9 FM.
    Speaking before the East Hampton Town Planning Board on Nov. 16, John Fuller, the owner of Red Wolf Broadcasting, described the station as a spot for news and information. “We’ll be doing CBS news and The Wall Street Journal report,” he said. “There will also be some talk. We’ll be reporting on local things happening. We’ll have an arts and entertainment editor. It will be pretty fast-paced.”
    Mr. Fuller, who has been in the radio business for 25 years, has proposed a broadcast facility at 375 Montauk Highway, where there are currently five abandoned antennas. One would be replaced with a new FM transmitter antenna, four would be removed, and he would add a four-foot diameter dish at 112 feet to link the station to the tower. Mr. Fuller needs a special permit in order to install the antenna.
    The tallest two antennas there now are 165 feet; Mr. Fuller’s would be 167 feet. Eric Schatz, an East Hampton Town planner, said the tower is not visible from Montauk Highway, and the slight height increase will not be noticeable. The nearest residential property is 230 feet away.
    Once operational, the station should cover 20 miles from the Montauk tower, Mr. Fuller said. “The license was actually granted about 10 years ago, but the applicants were unable to build the station. I tried to buy the license then, but they weren’t too organized,” he said.
    Mr. Fuller talked about his other radio stations and their involvement in the communities where they are located. “In Norwich, we have a holiday parade and broadcast live from it. The city couldn’t afford public protection, so it got canceled,” he said. “We donated $5,000 to pay for police protection, and the parade went on. We’re doing it again this year.”
    “Community radio works best when the radio station is involved with community, and that’s pretty much what we do,” Mr. Fuller said.
    The planning board did not find any problems with his site plan. “We’re not going to see it from anywhere,” said Patrick Schutte, a board member. “I don’t think it will hinder anything.” A lighting plan and additional parking are not required.
    When asked why he chose this location for his station, Mr. Fuller explained, “We have to maintain certain distances from other stations. We can’t come much further to the west. We can come out another mile from this site. So we’re limited, and then there’s ocean, so we can’t go that way.”
    His application to the planning board is nearly complete; however, the board has requested comments from Tom Talmage, the East Hampton Town engineer, before it schedules a public hearing.
    “We’re a small independent broadcasting group. I’ve been coming to the Long Island area for many years, and I’ve been intrigued with the area,” Mr. Fuller said in a follow-up interview. “We’re excited to start the station.”
    He won the license from the Federal Communications Commission at an online auction this summer. “It’s a secure system; you keep bidding every four hours. It’s a normal standard auction, but you’re on the computer,” he said.
    His radio frequency strength “could be as much as 30 miles, it depends on the terrain. I’d love to reach Riverhead so we go down both North and South Forks. That’s a good market, it makes it complete.”
    He said that in addition to national news on the hour, the station would broadcast local news as well. “We’re going to be at community events. I plan on having this feature called ‘Sound Off,’ a 60-second fast-paced area for people to voice their opinion on anything,” he said, “Short and sweet.” His wife is involved with his business, too, and they are also planning a feature on local wineries and restaurants.
    He hopes the station will be up and running in the first quarter of 2012 with a projected staff of 5 to 10 people. “It will depend on when we get on, the economic conditions, and the response the station gets. We’d love to grow it.”