Spanish-language Rhode Island broadcaster signs off after ending lease on AM station

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A noncommercial Spanish-language broadcaster in Rhode Island is off the air after plans to buy its AM signal from Rhode Island Public Radio fell through.

Latino Public Radio stopped airing on RIPR’s WRPA 1290 AM at the end of March. It had agreed in August to buy the station from RIPR for $400,000, according to an FCC purchase agreement. The FCC approved the deal in December, but LPR backed out of the agreement in January “when it became clear that LPR was unable to secure the necessary financing to complete the sale,” according to a March 23 press release from RIPR.

RIPR had aired the Spanish-language broadcaster’s programming on the AM station under a lease agreement initiated in 2012. RIPR CEO Torey Malatia told Current that LPR’s board sent a letter in February to discontinue the lease. The board “has not voiced an interest at any time since this communication in restarting the lease, nor re-negotiating a purchase,” Malatia said in an email. LPR was “seriously in arrears” on lease payments, he said.

RIPR plans to sell the signal. Until then, it will simulcast its FM broadcast on the AM station.

Despite the LPR board’s withdrawal from the sale, LPR CEO Reynaldo Almonte said in a statement March 28 that he would attempt to prevent RIPR from selling the station by using a state law that aims to ensure the sale of a public radio station constitutes a public benefit. The Rhode Island Attorney General told the Providence Journal that he would not intervene in the dispute.

Almonte told Current that LPR could buy the station with a 10-year loan for $400,000 and is waiting for a reply from RIPR. LPR’s board members could not be reached for comment.

For now, LPR is broadcasting online and hosting community forums, Almonte said.

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