WIOX to be acquired by WSKG

Above:  WIOX station manager Joe Piasek speaking at the opening of the Roxbury radio station on August 27, 2010. Photo by Julia Reischel. 

Roxbury public radio station WIOX, a nonprofit high-powered FM station that has been operating since 2010 on 91.3 FM, announced Thursday that they are merging with WSKG, a larger public radio and TV corporation run out of Binghamton.

The two radio stations have been planning for the merger for some time. In April, WIOX began broadcasting some programming from WSKG under a more limited partnership between the two stations. In September, the Roxbury town board passed a resolution agreeing to transfer WIOX's broadcast license to WSKG, subject to approval by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Under the agreement, which has been filed with the FCC, the radio station's FM broadcasting license will be sold by the town of Roxbury to WSKG for the sum of one dollar, plus a commitment to maintain a local radio station for the next three years. 

In a press release about the agreement, WIOX characterized the agreement between the two stations as somewhat unique in the public-radio world, calling it a "rare pairing of a purely grass-roots radio station, operated by scores of volunteer program host-producers, and a highly respected traditional public television and radio group."

Although the nonprofit Roxbury station runs some national programming, most of its airtime is devoted to shows put on by local volunteer program hosts in the community. That's not likely to change under the station's new ownership, WIOX manager Joe Piasek told the Watershed Post in an interview conducted back in September, when plans for the license handover were still taking shape. 

"Local programming remains exactly as is, the way we run the station remains exactly as is," Piasek said. "[WSKG] will be the holder of our license and provide for our representation on their governing board."

Piasek will be staying on as station manager, along with the rest of WIOX's management team. 

The town of Roxbury has held the broadcasting license for WIOX since 2007, three years before the station went on the air. Since then, the town has been the official owner of the station, and has on occasion been asked to front money to the station that is later reimbursed to the town by grant funds

The station's founders never intended to have the town own the license forever, Piasek said.

"The town has been incredibly supportive to agree to hold the license in the first place," he said. "The transfer of the license has been something that the town has expected since the beginning. The question has always been, who's the best likely holder of the license?"

Piasek said that WSKG is planning to make investments in the Roxbury station's infrastructure, allowing the signal to reach a greater territory. 

According to WSKG's website, the nonprofit corporation currently serves 21 counties in New York and Pennsylviania through nine radio frequencies and nine public TV channels, and broadcasts online through livestreaming.

Full disclosure: The Watershed Post ran a weekly radio show on WIOX from 2011-2012, and has partnered with the station on content and other projects.