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Bottom Line: Purchase means radio station The Point losing its edge

  • John Lippman. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 9/5/2020 10:17:49 PM
Modified: 9/5/2020 10:17:47 PM

One of the bright spots in Upper Valley radio will soon get a new hue.

Radio station WRJT-FM (103.1), known as “The Point,” is under agreement to be sold by owner Lisbon Communications to California-based religious broadcasting giant Educational Media Foundation, or EMF.

It doesn’t take a prophet to foresee that the independent “adult album alternative” station that plays songs like the risque Laid by British artist James isn’t going be playing the same tunes under a new owner whose stated mission is “to create compelling media that inspires and encourages people to have a meaningful relationship with Christ.”

Joe Miller, director of signal development at EMF, said WRJT-FM will become an affiliate of the organization’s K-Love and Air1 Radio network with a “full-time Christian music” format. EMF, a nonprofit that reported $191 million in revenue from donations in 2019, says it provides radio programming on “over 900 signals” in all 50 states.

The pending sale is one of four radio stations, including three in New Hampshire, that Lisbon owner Steve Silberberg is selling to Educational Media. The price is $360,000, according to RadioInsight, a radio trade newsletter that reported the news.

(A measure of how upset The Point listeners are is the Upper Valley Facebook group, which within one day had 80 comments from members expressing outrage over the news — compared with 52 comments from members who mourned the death of Mink the bear.)

Anyone who has paid attention to the radio industry since the 1980s knows that the airwaves have sloping toward a trough since the “Reagan Revolution,” when continual deregulation led to the formation of mega-station groups that stripped radio of local personality and community responsibility.

The Point, part of Silberberg’s Bedford, N.H.-based Northeast Broadcasting group, has been an outlier in the world of corporate radio, with an eclectic music mix that didn’t sound like it was programmed by a consultant with a cookie-cutter format.

Yet every radio station has its price, especially for “legacy” media properties staring at a dimmer future.

“EMF came to us with an offer for The Point and some other stations. It seemed like the right time to make that move,” said Ed Flanagan, general manager of The Point, which is operated out of the studios of WRJT-FM’s sister station, WNCS-FM in Montpelier.

Flanagan said the closing is still “several months” away as the license transfer winds its way through the Federal Communications Commission approval process.

In truth, WRJT-FM, technically “licensed” to the Royalton area, is nothing more than a “stick” — or transmitter — located in Sharon. The “station” that listeners hear in the Upper Valley originates out of The Point’s Montpelier studio, which in turn feeds the network’s other outlets in Burlington, Middlebury and St. Johnsbury.

And The Point carries its share of syndicated radio programs, to be sure.

Flanagan, however, said that The Point fans should not feel bereft because they can still listen to the station online or via their phone.

He has — pardon the pun — a point: The whole concept of “radio” has been upended by the internet and wireless technology, making it possible to listen to any station anywhere at any time.

“Delivering the product is different now. There are a lot of ways you can listen to us,” he explained.

And satellite radio in cars with more narrowly focused playlists and news programs catering to listeners’ personal politics has pulled away a swath of traditional radio listeners.

(Probably the only media business reeling more than radio is ... newspapers.)

For a small radio market, the Upper Valley is fortunate to also have “The River” on WWOD-FM, 93.9, in West Lebanon (technically licensed to Woodstock, but since deregulation means local radio station call letters doesn’t mean much anymore).

“The River,” owned by Jeff Shapiro’s Great Eastern Radio group, programs a similar alternative rock format — and has local DJs as well, like Lebanon City Councilor Karen Liot Hill.

For those of us who can’t stand to hear The Eagles or the overproduced pop songs our kids listen to, it will have to do.

Lebanon carpet store’s new owner takes the floor

Carpet Mill, the carpeting and flooring store on Mechanic Street in Lebanon, has changed hands but will continue to be locally owned and operated.

Devin Josler and business partner Leo Debeyiotis have purchased the business from longtime owner Michael Michalenoick.

Josler, a 2014 graduate of Hartford High School whose family owns and operates Sabil & Sons towing in White River Junction, said Carpet Mill “will continue to offer a large selection of flooring, carpeting and area rugs” but they intend also to “expand into the fields of interior design and window treatments.”

Josler, 24, and Debeyiotis, 29, who is relocating to the Upper Valley from Montreal, where his family has a business renovating homes and apartment buildings, said the 18,000-square-foot Carpet Mill store will continue to be managed by store manager Jean-Luc Maynard.

Scooped out

Twice on Sundae, the ice cream parlor opened earlier on the Lebanon Mall by the Tuohy family’s Salt hill Pub, has “closed for the season,” according to a sign on its door.

“This is part due to staffing and the need for us to focus to Salt hill Pub as we continue to navigate the pandemic,” the sign said.

Salt hill Pub’s Hanover location fell victim to the pandemic in June.

My business is knowing your business. Tune me in at jlippman@vnews.com.




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