Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
If you don’t live in western New York, you probably don’t think much about the city of Batavia. Even if you do live in western New York, you may think of Batavia as just a quick rest stop between Rochester and Buffalo, or maybe as a gaming spot at the old horse track right off the Thruway.
But here’s a little secret: Genesee County is a vibrant, growing community, and downtown Batavia is much more energetic than it was a few decades ago when urban renewal ripped out half of Main Street for a shopping mall that never really succeeded.
For 80 years now, Batavia and Genesee County have been served by quality local radio in the form of WBTA, which signed on just a few weeks before the 1941 NARBA shuffle and thus operated on 1500 extremely briefly before settling in on 1490.
(That sign that dramatically fills the hallway across from the studios? It’s from WBTA’s original downtown studios back in 1941, and has been cleaned up for another eight decades of service!)
WBTA changed studio locations and owners over the years, moving from the heart of downtown out to East Main Street, and then back downtown after Dan and Deb Fischer’s HPL Communications acquired the station in 2003.
From its storefront location here at Main and Center streets, WBTA has remained a steadfast community voice, adding two translators in more recent years to augment its AM signal. The newer one, 106.1 in LeRoy, made a brief appearance on this page last year, and we’ll show you the older one in a moment.
The studio setup here is clean and efficient: a main air studio toward the front of the building complete with new lights and cameras set up to provide video streaming of WBTA’s morning show and talk shows, a production room behind that, and office space for WBTA’s programming and sales staff. The studio-transmitter links? Those hang from the ceiling toward the back of the building.
WBTA’s transmitter site has been in the same place since 1941, south of the city on County Road 1. It’s a simple facility – a block building with two rooms for the transmitter and storage, and a short guyed tower out back in the field.
It’s a simple transmitter setup out here, too – a Harris Gates One for WBTA’s AM signal and a Nautel feeding the translator on 100.1, which hangs off the top of the AM tower.
(It was a little cleaner after we left, too – if you loan NECRAT’s Mike Fitzpatrick your keys to go check out your transmitter site, and there’s a wall-mounted vacuum cleaner right there, he’s likely to fire it up and make sure there’s nothing on the floor at the end of a visit!)
WBTA isn’t the only thing on the air in Batavia these days. There’s WGCC (90.7) at Genesee Community College, which we’ll show you on a later installment, and there’s a county-owned tower on the east side of the city that’s home to two translators sharing a single antenna.
We showed you inside this facility last year, but since Mike hadn’t seen the place, we drove by for pictures in warmer weather, getting a better view of that two-bay antenna that carries a 105.5 translator for the region’s country station, WCJW (1140 Warsaw) and a 102.9 translator that picks up religious WZXV (99.7 Palmyra) from east of Rochester and is then relayed through several more translator sites all the way to downtown Buffalo.
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And don’t miss a big batch of Batavia IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: Jamestown, NY