Pamal Broadcasting, owner of WGHQ AM 920 which broadcasts Kingston Community Radio five mornings a week, is working out a deal to donate their Port Ewen transmitter to Robin Hood Radio, the “smallest national public radio station in the country.”
Robin Hood Radio, owned by not-for-profit Tri-State Public Communications broadcasts on WHDD FM 91.9 and 1020 AM from Sharon, Conn. and on WLHV 88.1 FM from Annandale-in-Hudson in the Town of Red Hook. Robin Hood Radio co-founder and general manager Marshall Miles said that KCR will be able to continue broadcasting on WHDD if the details of the acquisition can be worked out. One of those details, he noted, was that the Port Ewen transmitter needs “thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars” worth of work — however, he said it’s not a deal breaker. Miles said that his company is willing to kick in $10,000 to $15,000 toward the transmitter fix and is working with the very willing general manager of KCR radio and the former co-owner of the station, Walter Maxwell, to raise the rest of required funds from listeners. The overall cost is estimated at $20,000.
Maxwell posted on the KCR Facebook page that WGHQ, which has been broadcasting in Kingston since 1955, would be shutting down on Dec. 31. Pamal officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Pamal acquired WGHQ in 2007.
Maxwell said though the most any KCR radio-thon has ever raised has been $5,000, he is fairly confident that his listeners will come through. He said that KCR spends $50,000 year to operate, and most of that money goes to WGHQ to lease airtime. KCR employs two part-time board operators who are paid $13,000 and has 18 volunteers. It is entirely listener-sponsored.
Through professional studies, KCR, which airs weekday mornings, estimates it has more than 2,000 listeners every quarter hour, mostly 55 and over. For many listeners in that demographic who are not social media- or even Internet-savvy, it is a vital venue by which to dialogue with local officials on local issues.
Robin Hood Radio broadcasts mostly local programming, and five to seven National Public Radio programs, such as Car Talk, Mountain Stage and Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me. Robin Hood Radio also airs BBC World News. Miles, a former broadcast employee of Maxwell’s in the 1970s, said that he feels his programming will be able to draw in a younger crowd, while keeping the 55 and over group happy.
“The last thing anyone wants to see is a radio station leaving the town,” said Miles. “It would be horrible for Kingston to lose it. It would be like losing an old-fashioned train station. It has been there for a long, long time and the worst thing would be to lose it and see it go dark. It was part of Kingston’s past and it should be part of Kingston’s future. We think we can take it, and by the programming we can lower the age demographic so it’s more representative of Kingston’s people.”
Robin Hood Radio will also broadcast local DutchessCounty programming as well.
“Robin Hood Radio will offer different programming on WGHQ that I think the public will enjoy, because it’s much more like true public radio,” said Maxwell, who believes this programming will bridge the Hudson River gap between the two counties. “Some of it will be Dutchess-oriented, which I think is great. I think that will benefit us because we have been so Ulster-centered. We already get a good signal into Dutchess, but we have not been programming. We get callers from Rhinebeck and Hyde Park, and we have had [Dutchess-area state] Sen. Terry Gipson on the radio. Outside of that, we have not done much focus on Dutchess. Robin Hood Radio will provide access to that side of the river, and listeners will have the opportunity to have their problems addressed.”
Tuesday host Andi Turco-Levin said she originally started her relationship with KCR hosting an “infomercial”-type real estate show and as an advertiser for real estate, citing her belief in that is was both local and affordable. Turco-Levin said she found she enjoyed hearkening back to her early days of radio anchoring so much that she decided to volunteer as a weekly host, discussing Kingston’s hot topics and issues. “I get such great feedback and it’s amazing how many people say they listen to me and [co-host] Greg Draiss. They listen and they like what we do. They like the fact there’s a local station that talks about local topics.
Before entering real estate, Turco-Levin worked in the record industry and DJ’d at stations in Albany, Detroit, New York City and Atlanta. “Since the ’80s the radio stations have become homogenized. They are ‘McRadio’ stations. There’s practically no more mom and pop radio stations anymore … What needs to be said is that the small, independent stations are dying off. We are lucky to have some around. We need to commend [Maxwell] for carrying on the WGHQ tradition.”