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New York City May Sell Radio Stations to Foundation, Judge Says

The foundation that has been the chief financial and administrative support for the city's AM and FM radio stations in recent years will be able to buy them, despite an offer that was $10 million less than their competitor.

Judge Louis York denied the petition of a private group, Creole Enterprises, that wanted to buy the WNYC stations for $30 million and tried to block their sale to the WNYC Foundation.

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Judge York ruled Sept. 14 that the city can sell the two stations for $20 million to the WNYC Foundation, which now provides some 90 percent of the stations' budgets. The city provides the rest.

Creole, saying it wanted to offer Haitian programming while retaining the stations' classical music, talk, and public-interest components, argued that the law required sale of the stations to the highest bidder.

The judge disagreed. York said the city's failure to seek the highest price might seem "irrational," but the law allowed the city - "entirely in its discretion" - to consider factors other than money.

Norman Redlich, lawyer for the foundation, said York's decision allows his group to proceed with plans to buy the radio licenses. The sale is subject to Federal Communications Commission approval.

Redlich and York said that if Creole has a protest based on FCC rules, it can challenge sale of the stations in a petition to the FCC.

Roy Smith, lawyer for Creole, which challenged the sale and temporarily blocked it, said his group will move to reargue the case before York. If the judge rejects the application, Creole will appeal, Mr. Smith said.

Smith said his group will also petition the FCC to disallow the sale.

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A city law enacted in 1922 authorized the ownership and operation of the city's first radio station. It was created to serve the needs of the police, fire, and other city departments that needed its services.

The station grew beyond its original purpose and now broadcasts music and discussions on subjects deemed to have educational value. A judge long ago banned politics from the station.

The WNYC Foundation was established in 1979 to assume financial responsibility for the stations during the city's fiscal crisis.

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