The 4-Way Battle To Build WOBM [50 Memories In 50 Days]
In today's 50 Memories in 50 Days, WOBM Chief Engineer Tom Trembly takes a look back at the 4-way battle to build WOBM in the early 1960s:
92.7 FM: Who Wants To Be A Radio Station Owner?
The year is 1965. Imagine yourself as an FCC examiner based in Washington, DC. It’s up to you to decide who should be allowed to construct a new radio station in Toms River, NJ at 92.7 FM. Four applicants are pleading their case. Who would you pick?
The applicants were:
- August 1963: Ocean County Radio Broadcasting Co., Box 402, Toms River. Owned 52.76% by salesman/political figure Frank Foley, 38.88% by construction contractor/Ocean County Planning Board chairman James L. Parker, and 8.36% by others including future Lacey Township mayor John C. Parker. Estimated construction cost $23914, first year operating cost $40000, revenue $55000.
- December 1963: Lieberman Family Broadcasters, 814 Madison Ave., Lakewood. Owned 50% each by hotel owner Max Lieberman and his son, electronics salesman Melvyn Lieberman. Estimated construction cost $21690, first year operating cost $37692, revenue $69888.
- August 1964: Beach Broadcasting Corp., 305 Lexington Ave., Toms River. Owned 49% each by Seaside Heights bar owners Edwin L. Olson and Angela D. Olson, with 2% ownership by school teacher and car wash manager William Joseph Bee. Estimated construction cost $40251, first year operating cost $23755, revenue $46500.
- October 1964: Seashore Broadcasting Corp., 27 Washington St., Toms River. Owned 16 2/3% each by Roy G. Simmons, Edward M. Levy, James E. Westhall, Steven V. Lane, Joseph E. Buckelew and Robert J. Miller. Estimated construction cost $61000, first year operating cost $50000, revenue $60000.
Today, if an opportunity for a new radio station is found and there is more than one applicant, the opportunity to build it is awarded to the highest bidder in an FCC auction. In the 1960s, such a decision was made via a lengthy process of comparative hearings, potentially dragging on for years. Just some of the things the FCC looked at were:
- Connection to the local area – The FCC preferred local applicants over out-of-area applicants.
- Community needs ascertainment – Each applicant needed to conduct interviews with community leaders as well as members of the public to determine community needs, and develop programming to address them.
- Financial qualifications – The FCC didn’t want new stations to sign on and go bankrupt a short time later, so it took a close look at the financial qualifications of applicants. This could be an especially tough burden to meet, as a broadcast license cannot legally be used as collateral for a loan.
- Programming promises – An emphasis was placed on “quality” programming, including newscasts and public affairs shows. An applicant promising more of this type programming was in a favorable position.
- Applicant biographies – Prior experience in broadcasting, business, or public service was helpful.
Compare the above financial numbers, and it starts to become clear that some applicants had better thought out business plans than others!
[Editor's note - the license was subsequently awarded to Seashore Broadcasting who owned WOBM-FM for 28 years, until 1996. Of course, we have remained committed to our service to Ocean County since day one!]
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