GREENPORT - A once-familiar set of broadcast call letters, WCKL-AM 560, will be back on the air next month, says the station's new general manager, Brian Dodge.
The station has been mostly silent for several years, as the group that has owne it since 2003, a not-for-profit entity from New York City called Black United Fund of New York, Inc., wrestled with how to use the station. The group's ownership coincided with a period during which the fortunes of AM stations flagged, overpowered by the clearer signal of FM stations and then by online music and related technologies, most notably the iPod.
But Mr. Dodge, an ebullient man, says WCKL will begin regular transmissions June 15 with a 24/7 mix of “mostly music and family-oriented programming” along with “some Christian radio.” Casually he lets drop one other feature of the station sure to draw some listeners and repel others: Boston Red Sox baseball.
Mr. Dodge, who said he comes from and as has recently returned to the “Berkshire Hills,” said the station was recently purchased by a Hudson resident named Tammy Thayer. “I'm here to get the station back on its feet,” he said, adding that his role involves all aspects of the operation from the technical to programming and sales.
The station is sharing space with a competitor, the Clear Channel stations, WHUC-AM 1230, and FM stations 93.5 and 98.5. The signal for WCKL will originate from the towers just off Route 9G, and Mr. Dodge will have an office at the Clear Channel building.
In the daytime, when WCKL is authorized to operate at its full, one-kilowatt power, Mr. Dodge says the signal will reach into all or part of 11 counties, with the best reception aimed at Hudson and Catskill. The power must be reduced to only 43 watts at night to reduce interference.
Whatever erosion the advent of new technology has caused commercial radio, plenty of stations remain on the over-the-air dial. Some listeners in Columbia County receive stations broadcasting from the Albany and Poughkeepsie markets. There are also commercial stations in Kingston, Woodstock and Sharon, CT, heard here. And the radio audience is further divided by the presence of public radio stations, the largest of which is WAMC Northeast Public Radio in Albany. WMHT, the classical music station in North Greenbush, covers the county and earlier this spring the newest public station, WGXC 90.7 went on the air from a tower in eastern Greene County and with studios in Hudson and now in Catskill too.
Mr. Dodge is aware that the station is in a crowded market, but he believes it has a niche beyond Red Sox fans. He said that in addition to his radio work, he's a pastor, though he doesn't have a flock at the moment. By his count there are 2,000 churches in the region covered by the signal of WCKL and he wants to help serve them.
Bill Williams, the program director for the Clear Channel Stations in Greenport said that while in a technical sense the new station is competition, “He'd doing something we're not doing now.”
The reason the new station is broadcasting from the Clear Channel facility is because WCKL was the original owner of the building and towers there. Clear Channel bought the station from an earlier owner and kept it operating over the last few years so the New York City group could maintain its license.