Petition puts sale of Berkshire radio stations on hold


PITTSFIELD -- Despite a deal in the works to sell six of the county's eight commercial radio stations, it's business as usual for now.

The transaction to sell the stations to Reed Miami Holdings, LLC, for an undisclosed price remains pending, according to Peter Barry, vice president and marketing manager for Gamma Broadcasting, a corporation spun off one year ago by the Vox Berkshire Radio Group.

A revised application to transfer ownership to Greg Reed, owner of Reed Miami Holdings, was filed with the Federal Communications Commission on Sept. 24.

The original proposed agreement, filed Aug. 23, involves three Pittsfield stations, WBEC-FM ("Live 95.9"), which plays "hot adult contemporary music," WBEC (AM 1420), a talk and sports outlet, and WUHN (AM 1110), an oldies station duplicating WUPE (FM 100.1) based in North Adams.

Also to be sold are WNAW (AM 1230) in North Adams and WSBS (AM 860) in Great Barrington, which emphasize local information and play adult contemporary music.

"The stations are currently involved in a pending sale transaction with a buyer," Barry said in a brief statement. He added that current management and staffers are being retained and that there's no timetable yet for a closing date on the ownership transfer.

Only WBRK's AM and FM signals in Pittsfield remain locally owned by the Hodgkins family. Willard C. "Chip" Hodgkins III is president of WBRK, which first went on the air in 1938. Willard "Huck" Hodgkins, Chip's father, acquired it in 1984 for $625,000.

WBRK, through its Washington, D.C., attorney, filed a petition Sept. 12 to delay the transfer of ownership from Gamma to Reed because the price of the transaction was not included with Gamma's application to the FCC.

According to the document, a purchase price has been agreed upon and "the parties are in the process of formalizing the agreement."

"We have no problem with the transaction going through," Chip Hodgkins said, but as a station owner, it's information he would like to know and it is required by the FCC.

Hodgkins characterized the proposed sale as "a large outfit coming in to buy another large outfit and that's fine by us, since we're the only locally owned operation."

Barry declined to comment on details of the potential deal.

Asked about the impact of SiriusXM satellite radio and streaming services such as Spotify, Rhapsody, iTunes Radio and others on local radio, Barry pointed out that live programming hosted by area personalities is important to listeners.

While some larger stations use automated or syndicated programming, he said that WUPE, WBEC-FM, WNAW and WSBS are committed to local programming and offer local DJ's and content seven days a week.

In addition, WBEC AM, with a lineup of national talk show hosts, also provides play-by-play coverage of high school sports in addition to carrying the New England Patriots, the Boston Bruins and the Boston Red Sox.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
or (413) 637-2551.

On Twitter: @BE_cfanto


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