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Unusual turnabout: Connecticut commercial station flips to public

At least it’s not just college stations going the public radio route. In an unusual turnabout the commercial adult contemporary station WQQQ in Sharon, CT is flipping formats to pick up news, talk and classical music programming from public station WSHU based at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. WQQQ, which went on air in 1993, is the only station owned by Ridgefield Broadcasting. That makes the station a relatively rare commodity in the post-consolidation era: a locally owned and operated commercial station. From perusing WQQQ’s website, one gets the impression that the station takes service to its small town of 3000 seriously, featuring actual local news coverage.

WSHU coverage map

WSHU, by comparison, originates from the so-called “Gold Coast” of Connecticut near New York City. It has two full-power FM stations, one AM signal and seven translators covering much of southeastern Connecticut and most of Long Island.

WQQQ is not being bought outright by WSHU, but rather will be operated by the pubcaster under a local marketing agreement. However in the end this looks like a net loss of truly local radio for the Sharon area. While I’m certain WSHU has more resources to dedicate to news and public affairs programming, I’m guessing very little will be dedicated to the small towns of Litchfield county compared to the densely populated areas of Southern Connecticut and Long Island.

In the wake of the massive consolidation that nearly gutted commercial radio it’s somewhat ironic that the comparative success of public radio is resulting in its own wave of consolidation. Although not nearly as gluttonously as Clear Channel’s 1200 station binge, it appears we’re seeing larger public broadcasting operations go looking to acquire stations that are either struggling or owned by schools looking to trade their licenses for cash. Taking on a commercial station, however, seems to be a new wrinkle.

How soon until public station groups start bumping up against ownership limits and start lobbying the FCC alongside Clear Channel and Cumulus?

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2 Responses to Unusual turnabout: Connecticut commercial station flips to public

  1. Marshall Miles February 1, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    There is still local, community public radio in Sharon….its WHDD AM 1020 FM 91.9. You can find us on the web at:

    We are independent, hyper local, a community FM and AM..that just happens to be the smallest NPR station in the nation..sandwiched inbetween two of the larger public radio giants!

  2. Hunter King February 2, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    My old station WESU in Middletown (right smack in the middle of CT) gets about half of its programming from WSHU. While I don’t mean this as a knock to WESU’s programming (on the contrary, I think it’s better than my current station) NPR stations are definitely a different class than your local community station. While they certainly do fit the description of public radio, they tend to be the big hulking gorilla of that category wherever they sit. So I guess what I mean is, this is about as exciting of a “switch to public” as KDFC turning public to replace KUSF

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