WNBZ may return

WSLP owners buy 1240-AM, may add 105.5-FM; Radio Park taken off tax auction list

The Radio Park property on Santanoni Drive in Saranac Lake has been removed from the tax auction list. (Enterprise photo — Glynis Hart) -- (Correction: An earlier version of this caption incorrectly said the Radio Park property was sold to the owners of a Lake Placid radio station for $6,000. The Enterprise regrets the error.)

SARANAC LAKE — Local radio station WNBZ, 1240-AM, has been sold to the owners of a Lake Placid radio station for $6,000, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

In a concurrent development, “Radio Park,” two adjacent properties on Santanoni Avenue associated with WNBZ, has been taken off an Essex County tax auction list.

An application was filed Nov. 24 with the FCC to transfer WNBZ-AM to North Country Radio, co-owned by Jonathan Becker and Gregory Gallacher. North Country Radio operates WSLP, broadcast from Lake Placid at 93.3-FM. Seller Ted Morgan of Saranac Lake Radio signed the application, but the buyers have not yet.

The application also includes a right of first refusal on the sale of WLPW, which Morgan’s company used to broadcast from Lake Placid at 105.5-FM. Should Morgan revive WLPW, North Country radio could buy it for $25,000 within 30 days.

Morgan’s WNBZ-FM operates out of the Gateway Building on Durkee Street in Plattsburgh and broadcasts on 105.9 FM in Plattsburgh and 106.3 FM in the Saranac Lake area.

On June 17 this year, Morgan applied to the FCC for permission for the station to go silent since a transmitter was broken. The FCC granted Morgan permission, allowing him to retain the broadcast license until June 2018.

Industry analyst Adam Jacobson, editor in chief of Radio + Television Business Report, questioned the legal status of the license, owing to how long WNBZ-AM had been silent before the sale. Jacobson noted that on the FCC website, WNBZ is classified as “Licensed and Silent.” Its 1240-AM frequency has been off the air for over a year, the Enterprise has reported.

(Editor’s note: A previous version of this article said, “Ordinarily, after 30 days of silence, the FCC is supposed to revoke a station’s license,” but Jacobson said that isn’t accurate.)

Another frequency previously licensed to Morgan, WIRD 920-AM of Lake Placid, has been silent for more than two years. Its license was terminated in May 2016 due to an unspecified amount of debt Morgan owed to the FCC. Finally, WLPW 105.5 FM was shut down in June 2017 due to a separate debt issue — Morgan owed money to the radio tower owner that hosted the transmitter.

According to the FCC database, a license renewal for WNBZ-AM was put on hold on Jan. 1, 2014. On July 1, 2015, it was noted as being in “red light” status, but the FCC site shows no subsequent action.

“Why?” Jacobson asked in a recent article in Radio + Television Business Report. “FCC Media Bureau staff is prohibited ‘from granting an application when an applicant is delinquent on debts owed to the Commission.'”

Discussing the issue with Enterprise staff, Jacobson said, “I was surprised that some of these stations weren’t deleted from the FCC database. I’m wondering whether the FCC dropped the ball.”

Of the five frequencies associated with Saranac Lake Radio, only WNBZ’s FM version continues to broadcast, with an automated playlist. The others have gone silent. Morgan bought the 1240-AM and 106.3-FM operations from Jim and Keela Rogers in 1998, and he later bought WIRD-AM, WLPW-FM and WRGR-FM (broadcast from Tupper Lake) from the Nardiello family of Lake Placid.

Lawyers for the parties declined to comment on the sale.

WNBZ was the first radio station between Albany and the Canadian border when it first went on the air on Sept. 11, 1927, when Saranac Lake was a destination for tuberculosis patients. The station quietly turned 90 years old in September.

(Correction: The subheadline in an earlier version of this article incorrectly said the owners of WLPW rather than WSLP bought 1240-AM. The Enterprise regrets the error.)