WIOX owners seek sale to WSKG

By Joe Moskowitz
Faced with the daunting challenge of raising enough money to renew its broadcast license, Roxbury radio station manager Joe Piasek has asked the Roxbury Town Board, owners of the license, for permission to sell the two-year-old station to WSKG Public Radio and Television in Vestal.
WSKG and WIOX already have a relationship in which WSKG provides National Public Radio programming for the Roxbury radio station.

Piasek says handing over ownership of the station to WSKG would not change the station’s day-to-day operation. Piasek told the News Monday night that WIOX would have “the same people, the same direction, the same facility, the same mission.” He went on to say that WSKG would provide the financial ability and the technical support to improve the product and expand the audience. Piasek said that MTC has agreed to let WIOX relocate its transmitter to a hilltop property that MTC owns. Piasek says that would quadruple the number of people who can receive the station’s signal. The radio station would continue to rent space in its current Bridge Street, Roxbury location, which is owned by Piasek.

Transmitter questions
The station’s transmitter is currently located in the Town of Roxbury Highway garage on Route 30 and the town would have to give the new license holder access to the facility. Attorney Kevin Young was not at the meeting and board members did not want to act until he was there to explain how that could be done.

Piasek said that if the town approves the transfer, this would be the arrangement he envisioned when he started the WIOX project in 2007. Someone had to own the license and the Town of Roxbury agreed to accept the responsibility, but it was never intended to be a permanent arrangement.

The town also loaned WIOX startup money to help the station get up and running. That money has since been repaid. WIOX officially hit the airwaves in August 2011. But now that a partner has been found, time is of the essence.

Complex rules
Federal Communications Commission rules are complicated and strict. WIOX’s current license will expire soon and the cost to renew is so great that Piasek says the station would have to go on a fundraising campaign just to pay for it. WSKG will pay that cost if the transfer takes place on time. Piasek says they can’t wait another month for the next board meeting. He says the process must start within days. Roxbury Town Supervisor Tom Hynes says he will be in touch with Young and keep the other board members apprised of what is going on in order to meet the deadline.