Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Hospital radio goes Public

Radio stations were founded by unexpected organizations in many unexpected places. Here's one that grew and prospered. In this case the owner, Albany Medical Center was the source of the call letters WAMC. The WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network, and it's Performing Arts Studio, a venue in Albany all have their genus in the same place.

In 1955 Albany Medical Center received a small grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to broadcast two-way radio conferences among physicians. This clearly gave them the radio bug as the pilot program of six hospitals grew to 24 in less than 2 years. By 1958 they'd started their own FM radio station WAMC on 90.3 FM as a classical music outlet.

Albany Medical Center continued on as a ACGME accredited medical school. Its influence on programming was clearest in the early days when brodcasts included health information and lectures from visiting professors. But in 1962, a hint of their later politicking they carried first live hearing from Washington, D.C. on programming practices.

In 1970 when the NPR was founded in 1970, WAMC became one of their first 90 charter stations. but things were growing quickly, the hospitcal could not contain everythign that WAMC was bustling to become. In 1981, financial pressure peaked and the hospital divested the station. The FCC license was transferred to a non-profit, tax-exempt entity, WAMC, Inc. It's five incorporators included then CEO Alan S. Chartock, the State University of New York and New York State government.

WAMC has grown into a network of fourteen stations serving portions of seven New England and Middle Atlantic States. They have been an aggressive station that's expanded their network for 2 decades, highlights including the 1989 purchase of WBBS in 1989 (now WAMQ) and in 1995 WAMC outbid SUNY Plattsburgh for 91.9 WCFE (now WCEL) Coverage Map here.

Soon they'll be on 99.3 in Oneonta I hear. Sadly this will kill the local repeater of the somewhat obscure WDHI oldies Network. But as many radiomen will tell you, in this buisness it's grow or die. A lesson you should take into this falls NCE auction.