Hamptonites Worried Public Radio Might Fall Into the Wrong Hands

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Photo: Illustration by Ryan Monaghan; iStock Photo; Getty Images; angelofsweetbitter2009's flickr

Are boldfaced Hamptonites feeling a little paranoid about their drive-time entertainment? The Hamptons’ only public-radio station is being sold off, and East End residents — including Alec Baldwin, Joy Behar, and Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner — have formed Save Public Radio in the East End to help a nonprofit group make a bid for the station license. Says Behar, who has appeared as a guest on WLIU: “In New York City, most people watch TV because they're not in their cars, but in Long Island people are driving a lot and so they need a good radio station.” But one of the committee’s founders, Porter Bibb, a media-focused investment banker and the first publisher of Rolling Stone, says there’s even more at stake: He’s concerned that the station — which Long Island University looks to sell because it runs a $1 million yearly deficit — might fall into the hands of a religious group looking for a foothold in the East End.

“Radio stations are going to hell in a handbasket right now,” says Bibb. “And the biggest owner, Clear Channel, is going bankrupt. So it’s going to be a right-wing evangelical group [buying the license]. There are two or three, and they’ve been sniffing around the Hamptons, looking for an outlet.” Because the station holds a public license, it can go only to a nonprofit or an educational or religious group. And LIU’s vice-president for finance, Robert Altholz, says that as a 501(c)3, the school is legally obligated to achieve the “greatest return” on the sale of its assets. We called one likely evangelical bidder, Cornerstone, which said it had no interest in the license; others did not return calls. The managing director of Public Radio Capital, Marc Hand, declined to confirm whether the current interested parties include religious groups. “We’ve received some unsolicited interest,” he says — and then adds: “But I wouldn’t put any of it in that category.”