There once was a public radio station from Nantucket…

By Ben Mook

A public radio station in Nantucket, Mass., that previously aired a simulcast of Boston’s WGBH has recast itself as a full-fledged service hyperfocused on the resort island.

Nantucket Public Radio’s 89.5 FM WNCK signal had aired WGBH’s classical music programming for the better part of a decade. When talks broke off over increasing WGBH’s payments to the station’s operator, the parties decided to walk away amicably.

“We thought, so what do we do with the station now?” said Jeff Shapiro, owner of Nantucket Public Radio. “The station itself hadn’t really been promoted and was more of a big translator than anything. So we decided to go off on our own route.”

Shapiro, who owns commercial stations in New Hampshire and Vermont, decided to make his first foray into public broadcasting. His station dropped the WGBH feed in June and added NPR’s newsmagazines and American Public Media’s Classical 24 service.

Shapiro also started brainstorming about how to localize the content and plans to take advantage of the lack of a public radio station based on Nantucket. The area already has regional coverage from WGBH’s WCAI-FM in Woods Hole, Mass., on Cape Cod, which simulcasts on WZAI-FM in Brewster and WNAN-FM on Nantucket. A network of translators fed by Boston’s WBUR also serves the area.

Shapiro decided to stick with classical because “we thought that that audience was stronger than anyone really knew” when his station was simulcasting WGBH, he said. “So, we want to give classical music, localized, a good try.” The station may add local classical shows to the Classical 24 feed.

The station plans a “hyperlocal” focus on Nantucket, featuring local government meetings and locally produced shows on subjects such as wine, sports, real estate, books and fishing.

“Nantucket is an epicenter of intellectual curiosity,” Shapiro said. “It’s a very interesting island, and shows like Car Talk all had to start somewhere. Why shouldn’t the next Car Talk be on Nantucket?”

Nantucket Public Radio will not seek CPB funding, and the station will be supported solely through underwriting, Shapiro said.

WNCK joins an increasingly crowded field of pubradio providers in the Cape and Islands region. In 2013, WBUR purchased former Triple A station WMVY-FM from Housatonic, Mass.–based Aritaur Communications Inc.

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