By Claire Walla
After Long Island University earlier this week gave Peconic Public Broadcasting a three-day reprieve to come up with the funding to complete the purchase of station 88.3 fm, the university on Saturday announced it would give the fledgling radio company further time to raise more than half-a-million dollars.
“Long Island University and Peconic Public Broadcasting, Inc. (PPB), have reached an agreement to extend the timeframe for PPB’s purchase of 88.3 (license) until September 28, 2010,” both groups said in a joint statement Saturday morning. “While PPB has not raised all of the funds required to complete the purchase, it has indicated that significant progress is being made, and Long Island University has agreed to the extension based upon their assurances that it will soon have the funding needed to purchase the station.”
It’s the stuff heart-warming movies are made of: grassroots company forms in an effort to save community radio station from private interests, while struggling to raise nearly a million dollars in less than a year.
Only this tale is true, and we’re still not sure about the Hollywood ending.
On Tuesday, August 31, Long Island University extended the deadline for Peconic Public Broadcasting, Inc. (PPB) to come up with the money it still owes the university for the purchase of its radio license, a deal that would give PPB full control and ownership of local radio station 88.3fm WLIU (which would then become WPPB). The company needs to come up with an additional $637,000, according to Long Island University Treasurer Robert Altholz.
Long-time WLIU station manager Wally Smith — who co-founded PPB last year when he caught wind that the station was up for bid — could not speak on the matter, only responding via e-mail: “We are at a very delicate phase of negotiations and are making no comments to the press.”
However, he confirmed, fundraising efforts continue.
Just Tuesday, PPB received a $50,00 donation from George Soros’ Open Society Foundation. And last week PPB took part in “Locals Live,” a concert put-on in conjunction with Old Whalers’ Church in Sag Harbor and organized by Bulldog studios. Tickets were sold for $30 a pop and proceeds went to both to the broadcast company and the church.
Though PPB’s funds are still well under the targeted amount, the company has a plan for keeping negotiations open with LIU. In a statement released to the press August 31, PPB’s Board of Directors confirmed : “PPB signed a Term Sheet with an area bank which has agreed, subject to satisfaction of certain conditions, to fund a loan sufficient to complete the purchase in the coming weeks. The Board and staff are optimistic that PPB now has the momentum to successfully complete the purchase [in September].”
PPB is still hopeful that community members will pull-through, ultimately donating substantial sums to help save the station as we now know it from going dark.
The only NPR affiliate in Eastern Long Island, WLIU has a reputation for broadcasting healthy doses of jazz and for churning out highly regarded regular programming from hosts Brian Cosgrove and Bonnie Grice. Prior to Saturday’s announcement, it was unclear whether they would remain on air in September.
On Tuesday, Treasurer Altholz said that the university would proceed by re-opening negotiations with last year’s top two bidders if PPB was unable to pay what’s due by the end of the business day on Friday, although that has chaged. (He also said that other entities have recently expressed interest in purchasing the station, as well; though he couldn’t mention any names.)
Altholz insisted that the station would continue to function until a deal is ultimately made, streaming broadcasts from NPR, PRI and Jazz Works.
“We have people at the university that can operate the station until a successful new bidder can buy it,” he said.
Though Altholz said he couldn’t divulge any information on any of the other bidders vying for the rights to LIU’s radio license—Dan’s Papers reported back in March that one such bidder was a religious order.
Back in September, when PPB won the bid to purchase WLIU, Long Island University President David Steinberg expressed in a press release his enthusiasm that the station would continue to run on a local level, with all programs and current operations kept in tact. He wrote: “We are pleased that Peconic Public Broadcasting was able to move ahead with the purchase of the station. This allows the transformative power of public radio to continue to thrive on Long Island’s East End, providing a critical public service and enlightening listening audiences through innovative news and cultural programming.”
However, if LIU doesn’t accept the terms of PPB’s efforts to keep the station alive, 88.3fm will then go to the highest bidder.