Member of the reality-based community of progressive (not anonymous) Massachusetts blogs
For many months the rumors have been flying around Lowell that locally-owned and operated WCAP radio (AM 980) was up for sale. With the news article in the Sun and today’s Kendall Wallace column, I think it is safe to say that it is a done deal.
For over 50 years Maurice Cohen and his late brother Ike operated what has become one of the last independent radio stations in New England. Most stations are now controlled by major corporations but not ‘CAP. Although I have at times been critical of the station, I have always felt that it serves the community; what I found frustrating is that it could do so much more.
The group that has been named as the potential buyers of WCAP has an opportunity to restore the station to its past glory of a few decades ago; the obvious question is will they?
According to people who know, Clark Smidt, one of the principles named by the Sun, is a radio veteran who has a track record of taking stations and making them profitable again. He is a professional who believes in local content. It is obvious that Mr. Cohen wanted to sell to a local entity and by-passed many lucrative offers until the right deal came along.
Sam Poulton, the other principle named, is well known not only because of his real estate business but also for his involvement in community activities in Greater Lowell. Although he is a successful man in his current profession, the radio business is unlike anything that he has taken on in the past. Hopefully he will defer to Smidt when it comes to programming decisions.
Another name that has been circulating but not identified in the Lowell Sun articles is a prominent local real estate developer with political ties. According to Kendall Wallace’s column, there are other minor partners in this deal.
Ideally, this new group would transform WCAP into the WBZ of the Merrimack Valley. We all know that a smart businessman expects a return on investment at some point. In addition to the six-figure price for the purchase of the station, they need new equipment. If you listen regularly, you are aware of the technical problems the station currently has. Those who know have told me that most of the equipment is not worth saving.
The station will have to be moved, hopefully it will stay in downtown Lowell, and they will have to build a brand new studio. WCAP currently rents the space, I believe, so these real estate people must have a building or two that can accommodate a radio studio.
This major financial investment does not bode well for those who are expecting major changes. Hiring local announcers and a news staff is an expensive proposition. If they do add news beyond the current practice of rewriting the morning paper, it will probably be outsourced to an entity like Metro Networks. It would be fantastic for Greater Lowell if this new WCAP would have a news group that would rival the Sun. Two news sources. Wouldn’t that be great!
Keeping WCAP under local ownership control is a good thing for the City; even if they bend the airwaves to their personal political views. I am sure here at LiL will remind them of that when and if it happens.
However, anyone can pick up the telephone and call these people; we can see them downtown Lowell, at community activities. We can express satisfaction or displeasure at something they do or do not do. At the end of the day, this is better than having Clear Channel, Entercom, CBS, etc…
A special thanks to the Lowell Five Cents Savings Bank for making the financing available to keep the station locally-owned.
The unknown factor is the format and the staff. It would be foolish for them to make any drastic changes at first. But they will need to increase their revenue to begin recouping some of their investment, so they will need to make drastic changes to bring on new listeners so that they can attract new sponsors. My suggestion is a good web site and streaming audio.
The new owners have a perfect opportunity to give Greater Lowell a new voice and an additional source of information. Let’s see what happens!
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