• Ansi Vallens

    Fair assessment. There would be no WAMC without Alan Chartock. But his complete domination results in mediocre fare. Many feel the same way. I recently hosted a trivia game at a Hudson, NY, bookstore. Between rounds I took an informal poll. Of the 30 people there, some 20 listened to public radio. Unfortunately, 16 streamed WNYC from New York rather than listen to local WAMC. When asked why, almost all cited Chartock.

    • Kevin K

      This is so true, so sad. Maybe an opportunity for social media? A kickstarter campaign to kick Chartock to the curb? Participants pledge to donate to the station provided he retires?

  • HellerGM

    A correction is in order. Reporter Shepard writes, “Chartock got interested in WAMC in 1979 when he was a political-science professor. Back then, Albany Medical College held the license, and the station struggled to cover its costs. With four days of fundraising, Chartock and a small group accumulated $129,000, bought the station from the college, and set up WAMC as an independent nonprofit.”

    The fact is that at no time did Mr. Chartock and his group ‘buy’ WAMC’s broadcast license from long-time licensee Albany Medical College. Rather, Chartock, who’d earlier in his career worked for a then-powerful political leader in the New York State Legislature, prevailed on his mentor to get the Legislature and New York State Board of Regents to back transfer of the FM license to Chartock and his private group. WAMC’s FM broadcast license was then the property of the taxpayers of the State of New York (via the Board of Regents) since 1948 when FCC first assigned the frequency to the State-owned Regents-controlled Albany Medical College. In 1981, that broadcast frequency, with main antenna facilities across the border in Massachusetts, atop that state’s highest peak, Mt. Greylock (resulting in a multi-state primary listening area of extreme commercial value), would have garnered a sale price in the millions of dollars had the license, instead of being given away, been put up for public auction to benefit the New York State treasury. Instead, Chartock’s newly incorporated ‘not-for-profit’ was ‘gifted’ the frequency by the Regents and the Legislature and New York State’s taxpayers never received compensation from the transfer of this valuable state asset to a private group with political connections.

    • Brad Deltan

      You can take issue all you like with how Chartock acquired the license, but there is no way that signal was worth “millions” back in 1981. No FM frequency was worth all that much before the TelComm Act of 1996, because of the strict ownership limits by the FCC, and the content restrictions (i.e. “underwriting” vs “advertising”) on NCE license severely limited their market value.

      That’s also true because you didn’t see the massive growth of religious broadcasting in the NCE band nationwide until 1988 when the FCC allowed FM translators in the NCE band (88.1-91.9FM) to be fed via satellite (the infamous “Moody Bible Institute” ruling).

      That’s not to say it was worthless, but I seriously doubt WAMC would’ve fetched more than several hundred thousand dollars. Perhaps a million but that feels unlikely.

    • Hi HellerGM, can you cite a source that would confirm this? We’d like to correct this if we are in fact in error. Thanks.

  • Brad Deltan

    Chartock is actually setting an excellent example for how NPR stations can be operated. You know exactly where Chartock stands and it’s invariably a stand to better his local community. Even if you hate Alan, you know he’s trying to make things better. Maybe not better for you personally, but better overall.

    Yes, it’s very off-putting to some but it’s also very loyalty-generating for others…hence why his pledge drives are so insanely successful. And it’s very appropriate for a time when people are unwilling to accept impartiality as a virtue. Either you stand for something or everyone else is going to stand against you; there isn’t really an in-between.

    The problem is that he hasn’t set up a succession plan worth a damn. He’s 70 and the entire financial and programmatic success of the station revolves around him and him alone. That’s a recipe for disaster for when he retires (unlikely) or dies (unfortunately inevitable).

    It’s also a little dicey in that I think they’ve gotten a bit lazy in relying on Alan’s star power in pledge drives instead of working every possible funding source as much as is practical. You gotta diversify.