Shires group officially buys WBTN


Wednesday, July 16
BENNINGTON — It's official: Bennington's AM radio station belongs to a nonprofit community organization.

Members of WBTN-AM 1370's new board of directors signed documents Tuesday at Southern Vermont College, giving them control of the station's programming and granting ownership of the station's property and equipment at the bottom of Harwood Hill.

"The starting gates have opened and we're ready to go," said Lisa Byer, a board member and executive director of Catamount Access Television Corp.

"Ready to go"

"We can now implement what we've been doing in the background for months," she said.

Board members and James Beckwith, the college's chief financial officer, signed a contract changing the station's ownership. They also signed a local marketing agreement, allowing the new members, who formed the nonprofit organization Shires Media Partnership, to run the station until its Federal Communications Commission license is officially transferred.

It takes a few months for an FCC license to be transferred, board members said.

In May, college trustees accepted the group's offer to buy the station and its property for $100,000. Trustees wanted to see the station sold after it was reported that the station, a commercial venture under the college, had lost about $450,000 since it was donated by trustee Robert Howe of North Bennington in 2002.

Howe is the president of the new board of directors; Bennington Town Manager Stuart Hurd is the vice president; North Bennington resident Michael Keane is the treasurer, and Joann Erenhouse, executive director of the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce, is the secretary.

Board members said the station has received continued support during its transition. "Our advertisers our excited about what's going on," state Rep. Mary Morrissey, R-Benningotn, also a board member, said Tuesday. "They've stayed on strong and we've had some new ones come on."

Board member Lindy Lynch said a membership drive for the organization is expected to start next week.

The station's programming should not change much in the upcoming months, according to Erenhouse. She said the group will focus on running the station first before making any dramatic changes.

At Midnight Madness on Thursday, the group is planning a booth where residents can fill out a survey on their preferred programming and music. At the booth, old WBTN personalities will join the group and current station manager Rich Ryder will play music.

Ryder, office and traffic manager Brian Dempsey and technical engineer Doug Mears are the station's current employees.

Midnight Madness is on Main Street Thursday from 7 to 11 p.m.

Board members also include Banner Publisher Edward Woods, Better Bennington Corp. Executive Director John Shannahan and North Bennington resident Robert Lowary.

The radio station was started by Belva Keyworth in 1952. Howe bought it from its second owner, Vermont Public Radio, in 2000.

There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the station on July 30.


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