Amsterdam’s WOPG buys Disney station – plans move to Glenmont


Faith_Matters_ArticleI have known Tom Threlkeld, owner of radio station WOPG, Words of Peace and Goodness across the Mohawk Valley, since 2011, as a direct result of interviewing him for the former Mohawk Valley Independent. He is a calm and quiet man with a sure sense of self. He asked me to write a radio drama in 2011 for his station, which we called Any Good Thing, and it began a two year odyssey neither one of us had anticipated. I talked to him amidst a day of inventorying his soon to be be abandoned studio in the former St. Stanislaus School on Cornell Street in Amsterdam.

Tom Threlkeld. Well, actually, Pax et Bonum owns this, and I’m part of the Board of Directors. Pax et Bonum is the corporate entity that owns this radio station.

Compass. I see. For some reason, I’m so used to dealing with you, the face of the operation, that I forgot that it was a corporation.

TT. Thank you very much. We like to be personal.

Compass. I have spoken to you in our previous interview about the reasons for starting this station, so could you briefly go over…when did you originally found WOPG, and what were your reasons for doing so?

TT. I would say the first reason for starting this was selfish. My wife and I discovered Catholic Radio in Buffalo, NY and we were pleased with the content we heard out there, and we wanted to make that available to ourselves in this area, as well as the people living in the communities around us. So, that was the number one driver. I think the message that the Catholic Church offers in today’s world can be beneficial to anyone who, in their heart, wants to listen to it. There are problems with the Catholic Church. We are all sinners, but I think the Catholic Church has a lot of positive things that will make people’s lives more beautiful, and that is why we started the station.

Compass. Why in this area?

TT. Because we live here! I grew up in Ohio. I was brought here in 1973 by General Electric. Most of my life since ’73 has been lived in the Albany/Upstate area, working for GE in Schenectady. I met my wife, who was living in Boston, at a ski area in New Hampshire, and I convinced her to get married to me and come live in Albany. (Laughs) So we don’t have any close family living in this area.

Compass.What is your status in the FCC licensing department, and your impending purchase ofḯ–it would be, [station] WDDY, right?

TT. Right. Well, just to back up a little bit, we, began the iniative to getting a non-commercial, FM license back in 2007. And we were successful in getting a license in 2009 and starting our operation on February 3, 2010. So we’ve been broadcasting for about three years. And in that time period we found out that where a lot of people live in, the Troy-Schenectady-Albany area, the signal from [our] FM station has difficulty reaching in to that population. So we’ve had it in our heart that we’d like to provide the same beneficial Catholic programming to people in that area.

In the spring of 2013, Disney announced that they were selling several stations, one of them being 1460 [AM], WDDY, and after determining whether we wanted to try to purchase such a station, we moved forward and reached a deal with Disney. We gave a down payment in September. The downpayment and purchase of the station is contingent upon the FCC granting us approval to be the new owners. We’re led to believe that it might happen before the end of the year, perhaps in January. We don’t get any feedback from the FCC, so it’s wait and see; or, like when I was in the Army, “Hurry up and wait.”

Compass. You touched on this before, but what are your goals for the station, WOPG AM, and how will you incorporate local programming?

TT. We’ve struggled with local programming on the FM station. Right now we can use a POTS line-Plain Old Telephone System, to send audio out to our broadcast tower out in Cherry Valley. You know, the telephone gives low audio quality, so we don’t do much in the way of live broadcasting. Pretty much none. We try to record things, in terms of local broadcasting, and then send the audio files to the tower, and then broadcast that. So, in terms of local programming, we are going to acquire a fairly substantial broadcast desk with this acquisition of WDDY, and so we will have the microphone and control equipment to do high quality live broadcasting. So hopefully after we get to learn how to use it, we’ll be able to do a few local programs on the AM station. And we are working on a plan to send the signal from the Glenmont area out to the tower in Cherry Valley so we can broadcast live [to WOPG FM]. It’s a work in progress, but I think we’ll get there. Was that question related to the content of local programming or just the technology of it?

Compass. Content.

TT. In terms of the content, it’s my hope that people will recognize that this radio station is their radio station, and for those people who believe the Holy Spirit is calling them to express their faith to the local community, that they will come forward and propose to us programs that they think would be helpful to the community [to express] that God loves them. We haven’t been that successful, with the exception of Jay Towne, we have mostly periodic programs, nothing regular. We don’t have any plans for a regular [bloc] radio hour of programming of a specific content, but we are actively looking to where God might lead us.

Compass. When you get set up, with both stations running, what will your potential reach be?

TT. With the new station it will definitely fill in the urban areas of Albany, Schenecteday, Troy. Right now as you drive around the urban areas, the WOPG FM’s signal comes and goes; so it’s not something you’d want to listen to too much, unless you’re really dedicated to it. It’s my expectation that, in terms of a quality signal, it’s going to add, a potential audience of three-quarters of a million to a million people, who will have a better chance of listening to a high quality audio format, as compared to the area of Schoharie, Herkimer, Fulton, Montgomery areas, which is maybe about two-hundred thousand people.

I learned that the office and studio at the St. Stanislaus Church School here in Amsterdam will be dismantled and operations for WOPG FM and AM will be moved to the Glenmont studio, formerly WDDY. I did get a pledge from Tom that Any Good Thing would still be recorded in Amsterdam for the foreseeable future.

Jay Towne

Jay Towne is a resident of Amsterdam, has published six books and is the writer and director of a radio drama, Any Good Thing, that currently airs on WOPG.