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Sep 21, 2010 5:16 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Local radio group secures funding for 88.3 FM purchase

Sep 21, 2010 5:16 PM

SOUTHAMPTON—Local radio upstart Peconic Public Broadcasting has secured funding to complete the purchase of the former WLIU 88.3 FM radio licenses and broadcasting equipment from Long Island University, according to a source familiar with the touch-and-go effort to raise the money.

With the help of a guaranteed loan from a local bank and a large private pledge, as well as a number of large donations from supporters in the last few weeks, the grassroots group of former WLIU employees was expected to inform the university this week that it will be able to pay the $637,000 remaining on the approximately $800,000 station purchase price by the September 28 deadline. The group has already given LIU some $160,000 as a down payment.

Station manager and Peconic Public Broadcasting head Wally Smith said the group is still working to line up the money before the deadline. He would not comment further about the effort.

But according to a source who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak about the fundraising effort, Peconic will be borrowing a large chunk of the money from an individual and taking another loan from a bank with the signatures of multiple secured loan guarantors. The bank loan will be less than $300,000, according to the source.

The station was initially supposed to have closed the sale by June 30 but was given a 60-day extension by the university after the down payment was made. The station was given an additional three-day extension earlier this month and then a 25-day extension, to next Tuesday, after appeals from U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, the former provost of Southampton College, and other local officials.

Those familiar with the internal workings of the rescue effort said that much of the progress made in the last few weeks was due to the involvement of Len Conway, the wealthy investment banker who had led the private fundraising rescue of the Westhampton Performing Arts Center in 1997.

There are still some issues to be hammered out with the university before the sale can be inked. Because Federal Communications Commission rules require that any sale of a public broadcasting license be approved, the money loaned from the bank may have to be put into an escrow account until the approval is issued.

If Peconic is not able to make the final payment the money given to the university for the down payment, all of which was raised privately, would be forfeited and the university would put the station equipment and licenses back on the auction block.

On its website this week, Peconic told potential contributors that any money pledged to the capital campaign for the purchase of the licenses would be put into a special account and would be refunded if the sale does not close.

Peconic Public Broadcasting, which was formed in 2009 by employees of WLIU when the university announced it would be putting the station licenses up for sale, beat out two other groups who bid on the station’s licenses. The group took 
over paying for the day-to-day operations of the station in December and several employees worked for weeks over the winter without paychecks. Mr. Smith says he is still not taking a paycheck.

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Thank you to the lenders and guarantors and the others that made this possible.
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Sep 21, 10 2:10 PM
By bobba (39), southampton on Sep 21, 10 9:08 PM
well that's good news congrats and now let the fun begin Wally and Bonnie and the rest of the crew...
By radioeuropa (8), east hampton on Sep 22, 10 10:24 AM
congratulations to the hard working, community-centric folks at Peconic Public Broadcasting ... we are all fortunate to have such caring, dedicated people keeping the airwaves local.
I'd also like to say that 27E has not done a very good job of supporting their efforts, printing information gathered by those not authorized to speak ... sounds like the Independent tactics.
By Nancy Q. (27), east Hampton on Sep 26, 10 9:27 AM
Sounds like an expensive hobby for a small group of people who want others to pay the bills.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Oct 1, 10 12:57 AM