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Mercury Radio Communications, which owns four Buffalo radio stations, has reached an agreement to buy WHLD, an AM station licensed to Niagara Falls but actually located in Grand Island, from Butler Communications Corp.

Federal Communication Commission spokeswoman Sharon Hurd said Friday the purchase price for WHLD, given in the application for transfer of the station's license, is $385,000. The FCC must approve the deal.

Charles W. Banta, president of Mercury Radio, said he expects that process to take three or four months, but he won't actually close on the deal until WHLD's new antennas in Hamburg are complete.

He said he does not expect to change the station's call letters or its unusual programming format, which combines big band music with a collection of ethnic programs, some in foreign languages.

Banta said, "I think that WHLD has had a long heritage. It's a solid radio station. Even though it's very different, it's a sensible investment."

Paul A. Butler of Amherst, president of Butler Communications, said the station is profitable.

He said when the deal closes, his company will be dissolved and he will retire after 40 years in broadcasting. WHLD is the only station he owns.

WHLD broadcasts at 1270 on the AM dial. It has a daytime power of 5,000 watts, and its nighttime signal will be reduced from 147.6 to 143 watts when the new towers are built.

Butler said Banta approached him about buying the station even before WHLD began working on moving its towers and studio from their current site on Staley Road in Grand Island.

The move became necessary when WHLD's lease with Sinclair for the Grand Island site expired earlier this year although a temporary extension was granted.

Sinclair owns a station Butler sold in the 1980s, then called WHLD-FM, along with the Staley Road property. That station is now WKSE-FM. WHLD's antennas have been on Grand Island since 1948.

This summer, WHLD reached an agreement with Western New York Public Broadcasting to share space on the five-tower array in Hamburg owned by WNED-AM. Butler said installing the new antennas could take about four months, but longer if bad weather is encountered.

Banta said the antenna move will not reduce the station's audibility in Niagara Falls or the rest of Niagara County.

Under FCC rules, "You're technically not allowed to move the tower site unless your signal still covers your city of license," Banta said.

The new WHLD studio site is yet to be determined. FCC rules require a station's studio to be within an area of significant signal strength. Mercury Radio owns three buildings on Franklin Street in Buffalo, and Banta said space for WHLD could be found there.

Those buildings already house the studios and offices of Mercury's other stations, WGRF-FM, WEDG-FM, WHTT-FM, and WMNY-AM.

Mercury Radio also signed a local marketing agreement with Butler, under which Banta's company assists WHLD with sales and marketing until the sale becomes final.

Counting part-timers, Mercury employs about 150 persons, Banta said. WHLD has a staff of four full-time employees and uses several part-timers on the air.

WHLD was founded in 1940, and its studios were located in Niagara Falls until shortly after Butler bought it in 1980.

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