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Channel 6 Radio Backdoor No More Lucrative than Plain Old Commercial Radio?

Last month I wrote about a few legacy analog channel 6 low-power TV stations operating as radio stations, taking advantage of their audio program butting up against the low end of the FM dial. One of the pioneers is New York City’s Pulse 87. However it seems as though the backdoor to the FM dial may not be so easy to keep open.

Arcane Radio Trivia alerted me to Pulse 87’s call to listeners to donate to the station in order to keep it in good stead with creditors. Nevermind that Pulse 87 is a commercial station (ostensibly operating in the noncommercial part of the dial at that).

As of July 21 it looks like loyal listeners came through with the much needed cash, gaining the station “a reprieve from some of our creditors” and the opportunity “to attempt to raise money through more conventional means.” The station also promises to return the donations, presumably once replacement capital is raised.

I’m not really sure what to make of this situation. Commercial media is having a hard time, whether broadcast, internet or print, so I’m hesitant to place blame on the weakness of radio or the channel 6 LPTV method. We have no idea what the books at Pulse 87 look like, so it’s hard to say whether the culprit is insufficient revenue, poor management, or some mixture of both.

However, I do think it’s safe to say that the particular dance music format of Pulse 87 has tapped into some kind of loyal niche audience otherwise insufficiently served by other stations. The real test will be whether or not Pulse 87 can keep up the quality of the programming that keeps a loyal listenership in the face of cashflow problems. The temptation to cost-cut by automating and embracing other Clear Channel tactics may be too strong, even if that’s the surest route to undercut the qualities that make the station unique.

Perhaps the station would be better off going non-profit and relying on its listeners who’ve apparently already demonstrated a willingness to cough up bucks to keep Pulse 87 on air.

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