WBTN celebrates ownership change
The group, which included Gov. James Douglas, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at a Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce mixer outside the station's Harwood Hill headquarters. Douglas said he was delighted to see a group of communitymembersrally aroundand save their local radio station.
"There's nothing like radio to get the word out immediately," he said. "It's a resource that means a great deal to a community, and I'm pleased to see WBTN's tradition of local ownership and programming continue."
The station was recently purchased by Shires Media Partnership, a local nonprofit organization, for $100,000 from Southern Vermont College. College trustees decided in the fall they could no longer financially support the station creating an uproar of support from the community to keep the station's broadcasting local.
Douglas said he has seen local radio stations in Vermont lose their local programming. He used to work for WFAD 1490 AM in Middlebury, he said, which is now an ESPN radio affiliate with minimal local news.
"They used to say to me, 'You have a face for radio,'" Douglas joked to the crowd.
General Manager Richard Ryder said it was hard to put his feelings into words Wednesday. "I'm glad for Bennington and the surrounding communities," he said. "Had this not happened, there would've been a huge void within the town."
Ryder joined the station five years ago, shortly after Robert Howe, a member of the station's new board of directors and former owner, donated it to the college in 2002. He said he worked for free the first two months to prove his ability to then college president Barbara Sirvis. Sirvis was in attendance.
Longtime Bennington resident Joseph Hall was also there. His parents sold the land on Harwood Hill to WBTN's original owners around the time the station first aired in 1953.
Michael and Matthew Harrington, sons of the late radio personality Bob Harrington, also made the trip. "I know my father would be incredibly happy right now," Michael said.
Douglas said he remembered listening to Harrington report the news when he would visit town.
Howe is joined by Town Manager Stuart Hurd and North Bennington residents Robert Lowary, Lindy Lynch and Michael Keane on the station's board of directors.
Rep. Mary Morrissey, R-Bennington, and executive directors Joann Erenhouse of the Chamber, Lisa Byer of Catamount Access Television and John Shannahan of the Better Bennington Corp. also serve on the board, as do Banner Publisher Edward Woods and media specialist William Densmore.
Hurd said he is hoping the station's new ownership is in place for years to come. "I'm hopeful we can make a go of it, make it last," he said.
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