WGXC-90.7 FM

Catskill's silent radio station doing its yearly soundcheck

Jun 14, 2009 2:57 am
Catskill has its own silent radio station, though once a year it turns on the transmitter for a brief time just so the Federal Communications Commission doesn't take away its license. For the last few weeks, WCKL (560 AM) played a looped Quiet Riot CD and Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" over and over and over again just to avoid being off the air for a full year, beating the FCC's regulations with a technicality.

How does a radio station get to this point?

WCKL broadcasts 1,000 watts during the day and 43 watts at night from Albany to Kingston. The Black United Fund of New York, a nonprofit organization that promotes the social and economic development of the African-American community, bought the station from Concord Media Inc. of Tampa, Fla. for $100,000.

Then-New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer was already investigating the Black United Fund for financial irregularities when they bought the station. “Its investments in real estate have caused it to fall behind in honoring its financial commitments to designated grantees (the employee payroll-selected charities) that are directly supported by payroll contributions from federal, state, municipal, city and corporate employees,” a press release from Spitzer's office said in 2003.

Spitzer replaced the BUF board, and the radio station became less and less of a priority. Eventually, the non-profit group failed to pay rent on its Catskill studios, and its equipment was tossed in the rain.

(At right: WCKL studios in Oct. 2006 on Route 23 in Catskill, after the landlord through the equipment out for non-payment of rent.)

There were reports in 2007 that the FCC had taken away the station's license. From the Northeast Radio Watch:
Stick a figurative fork in WCKL (560 Catskill); after several years in which the station has been silent except for a brief return to the air each June, the FCC has cancelled WCKL's license. (NERW wonders if WCKL's licensee, Black United Fund of New York, didn't let the FCC know that the station made its annual return from the dead last June.)

But the FCC's web site still lists BUF as the station's owner, and still lists WCKL as a radio station. WCKL's license comes up for renewal June 1, 2014.

And since WCKL is silent for most of the year, someone in the listening area might think that is a waste of a public frequency. "Certainly when the station's license comes up for renewal, it should be trivially easy to show that the station is not meeting its responsibility to serve the public interest," wrote "Brett Allan" on NY Radio Message Board.
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