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Lebanon Radio Station Sold

93.9 FM Switches From Rock to Oldies

Lebanon — Radio listeners tuning into WMXR-FM (93.9) for the Patriots game on Sunday may have been surprised to hear oldies tunes coming through the speakers instead of the match-up with the Dolphins.

They had the right station, but the switch in programming was all part of a shake-up of the local radio market that happened this weekend.

On Friday, Hanover-based Great Eastern Radio bought around a dozen new stations, including some of the most popular in the Upper Valley, into its fold.

Owned by Hanover resident Jeff Shapiro, Great Eastern closed on the deal late Friday after winning 13 stations at auction in May from the bankrupt Nassau Broadcasting chain.

Shapiro is still making adjustments within the company, but when the dust settles, Great Eastern Radio will own 16 stations spanning a geographic area from Central Vermont, across the Upper Valley and to New Hampshire’s Lakes Region.

The company’s programming now includes Top-40s pop music, rock, country and oldies. Shapiro also owns talk radio station WTSL-AM (1400) in Hanover.

“I think it’s a true testament to local ownership of media,” Shapiro said yesterday. “It poises us to be really strong, to do incredible things for the community, in terms of making community events bigger and better.”

Shapiro acquired the stations out of the Nassau Broadcasting bankruptcy, but was immediately required to sell two of them, including the Hartford oldies station WWOD-FM (104.3), in order to comply with federal communication laws capping ownership in local markets, Shapiro said. The Hartford station and another in Rutland were sold to Electromagnetic Co. The owners of Electromagnetic could not be reached yesterday.

The Hartford oldies station went off the air Saturday and is now playing a loop directing listeners to 93.9 FM. It will be moved to Burlington, Vt., Shapiro said.

In May, Shapiro partnered with Seacoast businessman Bill Binnie to buy 30 New England radio stations for $12.5 million. Shapiro put up $4.4 million for his share.

Almost all of the employees affected by the sale, around 30 people, will stay on under Shapiro’s command, he said.

The major difference listeners should notice right away is a change of selection for 93.9, which has since been converted from classic rock to an oldies station, and the interruption in 104.3 FM programming.

The classic rock format of 93.9 competed with one of the stations Great Eastern bought from Nassau, the more popular WHDQ-FM (106.1) in Claremont. Shapiro said it didn’t make sense to have two rock stations competing against each other, and so converted 93.9 over to the oldies format from 104.3 FM, the Hartford station that was sold.

“Oldies does well in this market,” said Justin Tyler, director of programming for Great Eastern Radio, at the station’s offices on the Lebanon mall yesterday.

Coincidentally, Shapiro once owned 106.1 FM and sold it to Nassau in 2004.

“So it was a nice homecoming to buy that back,” he said.

Patriots fans need not worry. Gameday broadcasts will be aired on KIXX-FM (100.5), a country station with a stronger signal, Shapiro said.

The deal also strengthened Binnie’s media holdings significantly in southern New Hampshire, giving him one of the largest media companies in northern New England. The 17 radio stations he purchased join television assets he owns, including WBIN-TV in Derry and low-power station WYCN in Nashua.

New Jersey-based Nassau Broadcasting owned radio stations throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic region, and has been selling many of those assets as part of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy it entered last year. It still owns some talk and music stations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

WTSV-AM, 1230 in Claremont, also switched formats last Friday from ESPN Sports radio to news/talk, simulcasting with WTSL.

Chris Fleisher can be reached at 603-727-3229 or cfleisher@vnews.com.