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May 25, 2010 7:49 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

New radio station will focus on East End community

May 25, 2010 7:49 PM

Community radio on the East End will get a little richer this Memorial Day weekend, when Hamptons Community Radio takes over the programming on the repeater signal, WPKM, in Montauk owned by WPKN in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The new station, WEER, will be broadcast on 88.7 FM from Montauk, and also on 90.7 FM, an East Hampton frequency for which the radio group received a construction permit from the Federal Communications Commission in 2008, just as the stock market tanked and their donors backed out of the project.

The new public radio station enters the fray just as WPPB, a group formed by former employees of WLIU in Southampton, is trying to launch its own NPR-affiliated station at 88.3 FM.

Hamptons Community Radio founder and chairman Matt Stutterheim said his station is on a much smaller scale than WPPB’s efforts, and that his group was formed in response to the dominance of public radio from Connecticut on the East End. “They just absolutely dominate the radio dial out here. We decided to fight them as best we could,” he said of the Connecticut stations.

He added, “WLIU is a full-fledged NPR affiliate. They have a $2.5 million budget and they’ll be able to do bigger things. We’re talking a first-year budget of $200,000 to $300,000. Our approach has been a community station with volunteers doing a lot of the programming. We’re just not on that scale.”

The volunteer programming already lined up is eclectic, and while the original plan for 90.7 had been for news and talk radio to be aired just nine hours a day, Mr. Stutterheim said that the takeover of the Montauk tower will allow for more music programming, 24 hours a day.

On Saturday mornings, two doctors from Southampton Hospital will answer health-related questions for Spanish listeners, a fishing advocate plans a weekly segment on national issues that affect commercial fishermen, and Bridgehampton Child Care Center Director Bonnie Cannon will host a two-hour show on gospel music.

Executives at WPKN said that the structure of the sale, with WEER leasing the tower until the FCC license is transferred to the new group, will allow WPKN to focus more effort on improving its coverage in Bridgeport.

“We were having a real money crunch paying for WPKM,” said General Manager Peter Bochan of the repeater frequency, which was launched in 2005. “We promised we would do more in the community, but we weren’t able to do it on the ground. We don’t have enough staff in Bridgeport, and we were stretched to the limit.”

Mr. Bochan said that WPKN programming that originated on Long Island will continue.

He added that WEER is paying $60,000 for the signal, but that WPKN will likely save $250,000 in operating costs thanks to the sale.

Mr. Stutterheim said that his company was more than happy to take over the $4,000 per month tower rental fee, which will save WEER $30,000 if it were to establish its own tower.

WEER had initially planned to broadcast from a studio in Bridgehampton, but after dry rot was discovered there, the station is broadcasting from a small studio in Mattituck until the end of the summer, when the station plans to return to the South Fork.

The programming will be coordinated by Hamptons Community Radio’s president, Barbara Barri.

“She has been in this from the beginning. She’s raised 90 percent of the money. It’s sort of her baby,” said Mr. Stutterheim, who added that everyone involved in the project is a volunteer.

“They’re not going to make any money, but there are people who thrive on this sort of thing,” he said.

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HCR could operate on a shoestring budget and it could work, You do not need a 2.5 M a year budget. How about getting students at local schools involved. Listeners would like to hear some student produced programs.
By BruceB (141), Sag Harbor on May 21, 10 9:17 PM
"two doctors from Southampton Hospital will answer health-related questions for Spanish-speaking listeners"

Maybe they'll stop asking for free ambulance rides?
By omghi (20), EH on May 23, 10 6:40 PM
"They just absolutely dominate the radio dial out here," he said. "We decided to fight them as best we could.”
And so instead of fighting NPR, they took on the small community station that actually produced East End content. Well played.
By jettysoap (4), Fairfield on May 24, 10 10:25 AM
That quote is in reference to the Connecticut stations, not WPPB.

The paragraf before:
Hamptons Community Radio founder and chairman Matt Stutterheim said that his station is on a much smaller scale than WPBB’s efforts, and that his group was formed in response to the dominance of public radio from Connecticut on the East End.
By BOReilly (133), 27east Web Editor on May 24, 10 10:43 AM
THERE GOES ESQUINA LATINA SUNDAY 2PM-6PM THAT PLAYS SALSA.
WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW WITH THIS.
By ride (6), montauk on May 24, 10 3:30 PM
That's all we need is another liberal mouth on the East End!
By Doug (14), Hampton Bays on May 24, 10 5:09 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Dodger (150), Southampton Village on May 24, 10 8:15 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Dodger (150), Southampton Village on May 24, 10 8:15 PM
At last, a "community" radio station that is for, by, and about "local" people, places and things. WLIU is for the hoity toity, not the local person. And their programming comes from Public Radio ("NPR") - that's hardly community radio. If I turn the dial one way or another, I hear the same NPR programs being broadcast from any number of NPR stations - so who did I support when I Yes, I read the article in the Independent, too. Good journalism, fellas. We didn't read that in the SH Press!

Grass ...more
By Dodger (150), Southampton Village on May 24, 10 8:15 PM
1 member liked this comment
Dodger coined it exactly. Grass roots radio. I am old enough to remember when the students opened the Southampton College radio station about 1978. They had a used 10 watt transmitter, used antenna and coax spliced in three places. But the STUDENTS ran it and it was great, and had about a 5 mile range. Programming ran to about 2am weekends. Same can be said for WPKN, the old University of Bridgeport station, 89.5 I believe. Great student station.

Turning through the education porting of ...more
By BruceB (141), Sag Harbor on May 25, 10 7:37 PM
1 member liked this comment