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WNET Eyes WPPB Acquisition

Thu, 11/07/2019 - 11:49

Will WNET, America’s flagship PBS station, acquire WPPB-FM, a National Public Radio member station based in Southampton? Maybe, and maybe not.

Current, a nonprofit news service for and about public media in the United States, reported last month that WNET, the parent company of both THIRTEEN (Channel 13, the flagship PBS station) and WLIW, a PBS member station based in Garden City, was planning to buy WPPB from Peconic Public Broadcasting, its owner and operator. The price, according to Current, is “more than $940,000.” WNET also operates NJTV, New Jersey’s public television network.

A spokeswoman for WNET provided a statement to The Star confirming that the parent company and Peconic Public Broadcasting “have executed an asset purchase agreement, pursuant to which WNET will acquire the WPPB [Federal Communications Commission] license and station assets from Peconic. WNET has filed for approval of the acquisition with the F.C.C. and the New York State Attorney General’s office, where it is now under review.”

But Wally Smith, president of Peconic Public Broadcasting and WPPB’s general manager, was circumspect. While it is true that the F.C.C. “received a request from WNET to consider an acquisition,” he said on Tuesday, “there’s another and much bigger step that has to take place,” F.C.C. approval of the deal. “We can get all excited, and they can say no. That’s why I can’t comment.” He could not provide a timeline for F.C.C. approval or denial. “It’s iffy at this time,” he said.

But Mr. Smith, who has worked in public broadcasting since 1972, did say that a potential sale of the radio station was not about retirement. “I enjoy working so much,” he said. “This has nothing to do with my position or retirement. It has to do with a request they made to help support the station so we could have an additional organization to work with, protecting public radio on the East End. All that’s happened now . . . is that if the F.C.C. approves it, then we’ll decide if we want to go forward.”

WPPB broadcasts a wide variety of programming, including “Long Island Morning Edition” hosted by Michael Mackey, “Heart of the East End,” a morning show hosted by Gianna Volpe, “The Afternoon Ramble” hosted by Brian Cosgrove, “The Urban Jazz Experience” and “Friday Night Soul,” both hosted by Ed German, and “Broadway to Main Street” hosted by Laurence Maslon.

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