By Bryan Boyhan
Still unsure where they will operate from, Peconic Public Broadcasting signed an $850,000 contract this week to buy the license for radio station WLIU, the National Public Radio affiliate that has been operating on the Southampton Campus of what is now Stony Brook University. Work began this week to clear the station out of the studios it has inhabited for more than two decades, as per an agreement with the university after the state bought the campus from Long Island University three years ago. The most likely place the studios will land is the Parrish Art Museum on Jobs Lane in Southampton, although station manager Wally Smith said they are also considering another site on Hill Street in Southampton.
PBB signed the deal Monday with a $150,000 deposit, the balance to be paid in installments through June 30. The figure represents the amount the non-profit company bid in winning the license last fall against two other bidders. PBB is made up of friends and followers of WLIU, and fought a campaign to raise money to purchase the station when they learned last August Long Island University would sell it because it had been losing approximately $1 million a year for the past two years.
Smith acknowledged they are a ways from achieving the $700,000 they will need by the end of June, and that fundraising was “slower than we would like,” but was confident they would make their goal.
“Now that we have the asset, we can raise money against a real thing,” said Smith, who added he already had $100,000 dedicated to the final payment.
At the time the bid was awarded late last year, Smith estimated the total cost of acquiring the license and all the assets of the station and taking over control would total $2.425 million. That figure has been “negotiated down,” said Smith, and much of that money was for ancillary costs. About $600,000 was to reimburse Long Island University for expenses the university covered from October until PBB took over in December, including salaries and programming costs. Another $1 million was the estimated value for WLIU to provide programming for Long Island University’s radio station WCWP on its C.W. Post campus for three years. That, said LIU vice president for finance, Robert Altholtz, was no longer required in the agreement.
What remains is the $700,000 to be raised over the next several months, and, said Smith, “paying salaries for the station.”
Smith said the space had to be in “broom clean” condition by the end of March, and that the crew began this past Monday to clear out. He expected they would be in a new location within two weeks.
“We’re kind of doing this like an old fashioned barn raising,” said Smith, adding the staff themselves would be doing most of the moving.
Originally, the station had planned to move to Wainscott Studios, but Smith said discussions there had “begun to fall apart.” The spaces in Southampton were ultimately more attractive because the license itself was for Southampton and both locations had more foot traffic than the studio in Wainscott.