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Canton NY, 12/13/07. North Country Public Radio's broadcast service in a key Adirondack region is in jeopardy because of expansion plans of an Albany-based public radio station.
NCPR has been broadcasting for 21 years in Lake Placid at 91.7 FM, and uses that signal to reach other communities in the northern Adirondacks, including Keene and Keene Valley.
This fall the Federal Communications Commission permitted non-commercial broadcasters to apply for new transmitters for the first time in a decade. In some cases, the application window has created unexpected consequences.
Ellen Rocco, station manager of North Country Public Radio, said she was surprised by the conflicting applicants in Lake Placid. "NCPR and other stations are competing in many locations for available frequencies, and we welcome that friendly competition. But this is a highly unusual, perhaps unprecedented, attempt by one public broadcaster to take over the broadcast signal of another public radio station. This is predatory behavior."
North Country Public Radio has broadcast in Lake Placid at 91.7 FM for more than two decades. Rocco said the station applied to upgrade the transmitter because religious broadcasters across the country have been aggressively acquiring non-commercial licenses in recent years. "However," she said, "We were shocked to learn that our neighbor and colleague in Albany, WAMC, had also applied to operate a transmitter at 91.7 FM."
The only frequency available for full-power broadcasting in Lake Placid is 91.7 FM.
In many communities across New York State and the rest of the United States, multiple applications for the same frequencies will lead to long delays in the awarding of licenses, unless stations negotiate among themselves to expedite the FCC process.
"Perhaps WAMC didn't know that NCPR has operated at 91.7FM in Lake Placid for over 20 years," Rocco said. "We hope they will withdraw their application and work with us to find a different solution for bringing their signal to Lake Placid," Rocco said. "We have invested public and private dollars in developing our service at 91.7FM."
Rocco said, "It's poor stewardship of limited public radio resources for WAMC to destroy NCPR's service in Lake Placid, and in the other Adirondack communities that rely on the Lake Placid transmitter for a signal."
NCPR has initiated negotiations with WAMC and will extend those negotiations to the third applicant, Northeast Gospel Broadcasting, if WAMC indicates its interest in withdrawing its application.
North Country Public Radio's Adirondack News Bureau is based in the Tri-Lakes region. Since 1998, the Bureau has won two national Edward R. Murrow Awards, and the service has been honored by local groups as varied as the Adirondack Council and the Adirondack Local Government Review Board. Adirondack Bureau Chief Brian Mann's reports air regularly on National Public Radio's Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as on the station's daily award-winning regional news programs. "It would be truly unfortunate if people who live in Lake Placid and other Adirondack towns are unable to hear these essential reports about their own communities," said Rocco.
"I've been in public radio for thirty years, and we've considered WAMC a friend in the system," Rocco said. "I can't understand why any station would use their donors' dollars to put another public station off the air. This move by WAMC runs counter to everything we all stand for, things like media diversity, free speech, and local programming," added Rocco, who also sits on National Public Radio's Board of Directors. More information.