Joe Tesiero’s little media empire won’t be so small in a few weeks.
The Cranesville Block Co. owner purchased WCSS from current station manager Joe Isabel a few years ago. It covers basically Amsterdam and a few outlying areas with 1,000 watts of local news and talk. In about two weeks, he’ll be running two more stations, each with many times the power of WCSS.
“We wanted to make sure the community grows,” he said, “What’s good for the community is good for Cranesville Block.”
About a year ago Tesiero bought a Federal Communications Commission licence to transmit WYVS FM to the Speculator area. After building a little studio he described as a “shack of electronics,” WYVS is blasting adult contemporary music at 5,000 watts.
“It’s a compromise station,” he said. “It’s the only one serving specifically the Speculator area, so it has to be something parents and their kids can both live with.”
Isabel explained why the area is so underserved.
“It falls right between the Utica and Albany stations,” he said. “You can pick up the fringes, but there’s nothing just for Speculator.”
Such a radio hole can a problem. During natural disasters like Tropical Storm Irene, cellphones and Internet access can be sketchy, but according to Isabel, radio stations are pretty much bulletproof.
Tesiero’s largest station, the 10,000-watt WKAJ out of St. Johnsville, is about to hit the airwaves after years of work. A few years ago he bought a license to build the AM station in St. Johnsville from another media company.
“You have to put up a very complicated transmitter,” he said, which caused him to miss his FCC transition deadline and temporarily lose the license.
Now he’s talked the FCC into giving it back and assembled all of the necessary equipment in one of his old concrete plants.
“It’s going to be the largest AM music station in the region,” he said, explaining that there are larger AM stations, but they concentrate on news.
WKAJ will play a slightly softer range of music than WYVS, a range Tesiero called “oldies” with an obvious cringe. “I’m more of a classic rock guy,” he said. “This is like classic rock with some of the sharper edges shaved off.”
For example, Bruce Springsteen, one of his favorite artists, will make it onto WKAJ with the widely loved “Glory Days,” released in 1984, but not with any of his newer stuff.
“We try to avoid station-turners,” he said, “songs that might be great but are sort of love-hate material.”
Both stations will get their play lists beamed in via satellite, but their morning shows and news bites will all be local.
“With Cranesville Block I figure concrete is literally the foundation of the community,” he said, “but local radio is sort of the figurative foundation.”
He said the small pizzerias and local businesses need a place to advertise that covers just their area. Plus, listeners need a reliable source of local news.
Tesiero said the new stations were more of an investment in the community than in his bottom line — they won’t be money-makers.
“It’s not a retirement plan,” he laughed. Most of the revenue from national advertising goes to pay for the beamed music, and he can’t charge much for local airtime. Instead he hopes the stations will prop up the local economy and generate growth, which generates demand for concrete.
WYVS is already up an running at 96.5 FM in the Speculator area. WKAJ will be operational at 1120 AM in a few weeks.