Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
How often do you get to see an entirely new transmitter site go up in your neck of the woods? It’s certainly rare here in upstate New York, but it does happen every once in a while, and especially when the fast-growing Family Life Network is involved.
As you know if you’re a NorthEast Radio Watch reader, Family Life bought several signals that were spun off when Seven Mountains Media consolidated ownership in the Elmira-Corning market and couldn’t keep everything it was buying as it picked up the former Backyard, Equinox and Sound stations.
Those deals gave Family Life a full class A signal in its future headquarters city of Corning (the former WENY-FM 97.7, now WCIG) – and it also picked up two signals that together covered most of Elmira from Backyard. One of them, the former WNGZ 104.9 in Montour Falls, stayed in the Elmira area as WCIM – but the other, the Horseheads-licensed 100.9 that was WPGI (“The Big Pig”) for years and then briefly WMTT (“The Met”), went silent after Family Life took over.
Why? So that Family Life could move that license from Horseheads about 25 miles to the northeast, changing frequency to 101.1 and changing city of license to Enfield. And just like that, Family Life ended up with a full-power signal for the Ithaca market for the first time, replacing a translator on 88.9 fed from rimshot WCII (88.5 Spencer).
To make the move work, Family Life had to build a new tower site, a 60-meter self-supporter tucked away off Enfield Center Road, off Route 79 a few miles west of Ithaca in the hills that rise above the southern end of Cayuga Lake.
The new WCID 101.1 hit the air two days before Christmas last year, from a very simple and very functional facility at the end of a dirt road. There’s a prefab transmitter shelter housing the rack with WCID’s satellite receiver, Nautel transmitter and EAS box, a three-bay Shively antenna, and a little space for tenants, including the 107.1 translator for Ithaca’s ESPN Radio affiliate, WPIE (1160 Trumansburg).
That translator was one of several at the “City Lights” site a mile or so to the east off 79, but it needed a new home and found one up here. And it won’t be alone: by the time we get back here, we’ll see another new addition, a digital translator for Elmira’s ABC/CBS affiliate, WENY-TV (Channel 36), replacing an old analog channel 7 translator that used to operate from a different site on the other side of Ithaca.
While we were in town, we took advantage of the chance to stop by WPIE’s studio, too.
Todd Mallinson’s Vizella Broadcasting runs this station, one of only two independently-owned commercial stations in town, from a small office tucked away at the back of a building on Triphammer Road north of Ithaca. (The other? It’s WVBR, operated by Cornell students; everything else is part of Saga’s very large cluster.)
The studio’s decked out in ESPN (and Cornell) red, with plenty of space for the station’s local talk show and for board ops to handle high school sports, plus Yankees, Bills and Syracuse University coverage.
From here, WPIE’s signal goes to three transmitters – the main AM 1160 site up near Trumansburg, northwest of Ithaca, as well as two 107.1 translators, this one at the WCID site and another that serves nearby Watkins Glen.
Thanks to Mark Humphrey and Todd Mallinson for the tour!
CALENDARS ON CLEARANCE
If you don’t have your 2023 Tower Site Calendar yet, now is the perfect time to get it. Because we have lowered the price to just $14.
The calendar has great photos of broadcast sites near and far (everywhere from Navajo Nation on the cover to Boston to Toronto to Texas, and beyond), plus a lovely “centerfold” you can keep on your wall for 2024.
It’s still shipping regularly, and you can have yours in just a couple of days!
Order your copy and you’ll see what we mean.
If you have already ordered your calendar, make sure you check out the other items in the store, too!
And don’t miss a big batch of Finger Lakes IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: Along Lake Ontario’s north shore