Liberal talk is coming to Buffalo radio in 10 days, and it's bringing along Al Franken.
A group of investors and radio veterans is launching a new radio station billed as the progressive alternative to the conservative talkers who dominate local airwaves.
Niagara Independent Media takes over the operation of WHLD-AM 1270 at 6 a.m. Feb. 13 and plans to offer a mix of Buffalo-based talk and news as well as national programming.
"We're excited and anxious to get going. Finally, another voice in local talk radio," said Ray Marks, a former news director at WBEN-AM and WGR-AM. Marks is a partner in this venture and will serve as station general manager and on-air host.
The investors say this station will be the first locally owned, commercial radio station in the country to offer talk from a liberal point of view. There are other such stations that are not supported by commercial advertising.
"We're not going to be a fringe-left station. We're going to be a station that I think reflects the values of Western New York," said Brian Brown-Cashdollar, Niagara Independent Media's president and a former official with the Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health.
The station will operate out of WHLD's studio at Delaware Avenue and Chippewa Street for about six weeks before moving into a new, 3,500-square-foot studio under construction at the Tri-Main Center on Main Street.
Niagara Independent Media has entered into a license management agreement with Citadel Broadcasting Co. to operate WHLD. The new WHLD plans to hire 15 employees by the end of its first year, and the entire operation represents an investment of $600,000, said Brown-Cashdollar.
The station will broadcast around the clock, hosting local call-in shows, a fledgling news operation and programs from the liberal Air America Radio Network and Pacifica Radio. Franken, the former "Saturday Night Live" writer and author, has a show on Air America.
Brown-Cashdollar and his fellow investors say the station will fill a void in local talk radio, which is dominated by WBEN-AM 930, an Entercom station whose hosts have a solid conservative bent.
The investors in Niagara Independent Media include Michael I. Niman, a Buffalo State College assistant professor and frequent contributor to Artvoice magazine, and Richard Lipsitz Sr., a labor attorney.
Marks said the new WHLD should not be viewed as a direct challenge to WBEN, but he did want to offer an alternative voice to Western New Yorkers.
Marks and Alex Blair, who has been executive director of the labor-backed radio program "Prospering in America," will be among the first local hosts on the station.
He added that the station will focus on building a local news operation, and has plans to broadcast from remote locations in an effort to talk to regular people.