Home arrow Home arrow A Three-Way Move Shakes The Twin Tiers Radio Dial
A Three-Way Move Shakes The Twin Tiers Radio Dial
A Three-Way Move Shakes The Twin Tiers Radio Dial

In early 2019, Community Broadcasters, the company led by Bruce Mittman and Jim Leven, agreed to sell their radio stations serving the Twin Tiers of New York and Pennsylvania to a growing radio station owner led by CEO Kristin Cantrell and COO Jim Loftus.

Nearly one year later, in December 2019, Cantrell's Kentucky-based company struck again, snagging three more stations serving a portion of the region that includes Corning, Elmira and Watkins Glen, N.Y.

Guess what? Seven Mountains Media is at it again, and this time two other players are involved.

RBR+TVBR has confirmed that Seven Mountains is in the process of filing paperwork through the FCC's LMS that will seek regulatory approval of the purchase of nine radio stations presently owned by Sound Communications.

The stations are WGGO-AM 1590 "The Patriot", WMXO-FM "Mix 101.5", WOEN-AM 1360 and WQRS-FM 98.3 "98 Rocks" in Olean, N.Y.; Country giant WKPQ-FM in Hornell, N.Y.; and WENI-AM 1450 & FM 92.7, WENY-AM 1230 and WGMM-FM "Gem 98.7" in Corning-Elmira, N.Y.

Sound is led by Bettina Finn, and all of those stations - including WZKZ-FM 101.9 in Alfred, N.Y. - were originally intended to be purchased by Standard Media Group, under the leadership of Deb McDermott.

However, as RBR+TVBR exclusively reported, financing concerns led to a non-consummation of this and other deals Standard had agreed to.

With Standard's purchase aborted, Finn turned to Cantrell's group, which had no presence in the Twin Tiers as recently as 2018.

Now, it has a dominant presence. And, to make the Sound deal work, it is spinning off five properties to Family Life Ministries, the Bath, N.Y., non-commercial religious broadcaster led by President/CEO Rick Snavely.

The five stations going to Family Life are former Sound stations WENY-FM and WZKZ-FM; and Seven Mountains' WPHD-FM 104.9 in Montour Falls, N.Y.WMTT-FM 100.9 in Horseheads, N.Y.; and WUDE-FM 96.7 in Portville, N.Y.

WPHD and WMTT, then using the WPGI call letters, were acquired by Seven Mountains in the Community Broadcasters deal.

WUDE, which is an Olean market signal that is presently dark, was acquired by Seven Mountains through its Southern Belle LLC licensee in October 2020 from Jeff Andrulonis' Colonial Media Group.

In exchange, Family Life will trade to Seven Mountains WCIG-FM 107.7 in Dallas, Pa.

A Class A facility, WCIG enjoys coverage of the entire Scranton-Wilkes Barre area, with in-car coverage in Hazleton and Honesdale.

This puts Seven Mountains directly into Northeastern Pennsylvania's biggest market for the first time, as its other Pennsylvania stations cover State College, Selinsgrove, Lewistown, Wellsboro, DuBois and Stroudsburg, which straddles the border with New Jersey.

Seven Mountain's broker of record in this transaction is Boca Raton, Fla.-based Michael J. Bergner, who also confirmed the deal to RBR+TVBR. Financial terms were not immediately disclosed.


Rick Snavely
Rick Snavely, President/CEO, Family Life Ministries

For Family Life, its presence in Scranton-Wilkes Barre will continue through at least one FM translator - W280CV at 103.9 MHz.

But, Family Life leader Snavely tells RBR+TVBR that WCIG had been for sale, as the broadcast ministry opted to focus its efforts on towns and cities closer to its Western New York base of operations.

Meanwhile, he's excited about the opportunities in the Twin Tiers, as the five stations Family Life will be getting from Seven Mountains replace low-power FM translators in the greater Corning-Elmira area.

Snavely was also unable to share financial terms of the deal, as it is Sound and Seven Mountains that are the only parties involved in an outright purchase agreement and not a swap. But, he did say that its filing with the FCC was supposed to occur earlier in the week. Why the delay? Snavely says attorney Joe Chautin III of Hardy, Carey, Chautin & Balkin - like other telecommunications lawyers - remain confused with the Commission's recently launched LMS.

This prompted word of the deal to remain mum until today (2/5), so staff across the three companies would learn simultaneously of the changes. A recorded on-air announcement was broadcast across Family Life's stations on Friday.

This was accompanied by a video appearing on YouTube.

In it, Snavely shares how two of the five stations it is getting will be moved.

First, WUDE is set to change its call letters to WCOR-FM, and relocate its facility so it is closer to Bradford, Pa., southwest of Portville.

Second, engineering work has been put in play that will see WMTT shift from its Class A facility in Horseheads at 100.9 MHz to a new facility at 101.1 MHz under the forthcoming WCIM call letters. This would be used to serve the Ithaca, N.Y., radio market due east of Montour Falls.

"We are just so excited about what is taking place," Snavely said. "The lord has opened up doors."

With FCC approval pending, Snavely hopes that by Family Life's Fall Shareathon in October, the deal will be done.

Family Life has owned WCIG-FM, formerly WGMF-FM, since July 2009, when it acquired it from Kevin Fitzgerald-controlled GEOS Communications for $1 million.

WCIG is a Docket 80-90 Class A addition to the Scranton-Wilkes Barre market, and was originally WYMK-FM "Y107," airing Unistar's Adult Rock "n" Roll syndicated format.

Meanwhile, Seven Mountains COO Loftus shares with RBR+TVBR that it is also swapping WGGO-AM in Salamanca, N.Y., to Family Life, although Snavely did not mention this in his conversation with RBR+TVBR.

Seven Mountains Media's Twin Tiers radio brands following the closing of the Sound purchase and Family Life spins will be as follows:

Elmira-Corning, N.Y.:

  • WINK 106, with WNKI-FM 106.1 and a FM translator at 95.7 MHz
  • Bigfoot Country. It will be heard on WQBF-FM 94.7, WCBF-FM 95.1 and WOBF-FM 96.1
  • The Met. It is based at WMTT-AM 820 and uses an FM translator at 101.3 MHz to serve the majority of Corning and Elmira
  • Cool, using WPHD-FM 103.3 and FM translators at 104.9 MHz and 107.9 MHz
  • Wingz 93, once at 104.9 MHz, which is being spun to Family Life. It is using FM translators to serve Corning and Elmira at 93.1 MHz and 93.5 MHz
  • Jamz 101.7, airing a hip-hop format on an FM translator

Hornell, N.Y.:

  • Bigfoot Country airs on WOBF-FM 97.1
  • Cool is on WOBF-FM 95.3
  • The Met airs here at 93.1 MHz and is on 95.7 MHz in Bath