The logo for WOXO Country 92.7 and 100.7. Supplied photo

 

NORWAY — Maine broadcasting icon Stan Bennett has been a fixture on popular radio more than 30 years. Now, with the purchase of five local stations serving Oxford Hills, the River Valley and Lewiston/Auburn, he hopes to expand his reputation as a leader in community broadcasting.

Next week Bennett will complete the purchase of Gleason Radio Group’s WOXO-FM 92.7 Norway, WRMO-FM 100.7 Mexico, WEZR-1240 AM Lewiston/Auburn, WPNO-1450 AM South Paris and WTME-980 AM. The acquisition includes translator stations 105.5 FM Lewiston/Auburn, 95.3 FM South Paris/Norway, 96.9 FM South Paris, and 98.3 FM Rumford.

Bennett plans to have the stations back on the air the first week of August, using the Norway studio as Bennett Radio Group’s operations base. His newly-formed limited liability company retains the Mexico studio for use for local broadcasts and programming there. The purchase did not include the property in Lewiston where WEZR-1240 was based but Bennett plans to return in a different location in the future.

“These stations have been around forever,” Bennett said. “And I’ve wanted to do this since I was a kid, to own my own local radio stations. I started in the business in 1987 with WIGY. Since 1994 I’ve been Program Director with Frank 107.5 and the Wolf 99.9.

“We’ve been watching these stations for a couple of years now with this in mind. Purchasing stations is hard to do, especially today when large corporations pay tens of millions for them.”

Stan (left) and Alison Bennett will close on the purchase of WOXO on Jul. 29 and will have the radio station back on the air the following week. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

 

Bennett is thrilled he was able to make an acceptable offer to the Gleason Group and continue the legacy Dick Gleason began back in 1981.

“If we hadn’t purchased them they most likely would have gone to a much larger company,” Bennett said. “They would no longer be here to serve the local communities. They would have become repeat programming of stations out of Portland or somewhere else.

“I love local radio and that’s what we’ll do. We will be very, very community minded on L/A, Oxford Hills and the River Valley. We are not serving Portland, Augusta/Waterville. Our attention and energy will go to these communities.”

Bennett does not plan any changes to the stations’ formats, and he will start off with a skeleton on-air staff – mainly himself.

“For now I will be the main on-air person,” he explained. “We will have a few others come in to cover shifts for us. Eventually we will go to having a staff of on-air announcers. But that will take a little bit of time to get there.”

The Gleason Group employed six or seven people between its three locations, most notably Wally McCarthy and Mark Turcotte. Bennett declined to say who his initial back-up will be and if any known radio personalities will eventually join him. He was able to retain one of Gleason’s sales reps, Dave Dean, and plans to hire two more.

WOXO’s popular Country Corner, a swap-shop kind of show will return as soon as the station returns to the air, with Bennett as its host.

“We’ll bring back NASCAR coverage,” Bennett said. “And we are teaming up with John Williams here in Oxford of Williams Broadcasting for local NASCAR reports and things like that. I’ve known John for decades. He gave me my first job in radio. And our relationship will expand now, producing local sports broadcasts.”

Williams, who is also Director of the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce, sees only upside to the Bennett Radio Group coming to the area.

“Stan and I have talked about the importance of producing local sports programing and he is completely committed to doing so,” Williams said. “He will bring a technical edge to the stations that will simply create the best sounding and the most professional broadcasts anyone could ask for.

“And he began his radio career as a teenager in Bath, Maine working overnight shifts for WIGY, riding his bike to work each night!”

Bennett is cognizant of the stations’ long history of serving their communities and has no plans to change. He looks forward to bringing back play-by-play programming for high school sports, assuming kids can eventually get back out on their playing fields.

Supporting local charities, fundraisers and businesses will also be a priority going forward.

“We will immediately reintroduce the stations to the community and earn our communities’ trust as stations that are here to serve them,” Bennett said. “We aren’t just going to play music. We want to help the community out. We will reach out to local charities and support local benefits. We will promote their events and give support however we can with live remotes.

“If there is something going on in L/A, Oxford Hills or the River Valley, I want the first thing people to think about is to tuning into our stations to find out about it.”

Bennett Radio Group will get the get the studio keys on July 29. Bennett will make building improvements to the Norway and Mexico studios and take station vehicles out into the community. He expects his kids, aged from 14-29, to help make his venture a family affair. His wife Alison will continue to work in the healthcare field but will pitch in with the family business as opportunity presents itself.

Bennett has already reached out to the local chambers of commerce to get community support projects going.

“We want our audience to know that we are locally-minded stations,” he said. Through the chambers we will get to know the businesses and non-profits, find out where they need help and what we can add to that.

“Stan has built a career around the idea that you must focus on your listener and that you also need to understand that listener and what it is that they want to hear,” said Williams. “He has been one of the most successful personalities in Maine broadcasting and brings years of skilled experience to the networks here in the Oxford Hills.

“He is not in the Maine Broadcast Hall of Fame for nothing.”

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