FCC Today Formally Grants WHAV’s Final Broadcast License

Federal Communications Commission headquarters, Washington, D.C.

WHAV News Director Dana Esmel reads a bulletin in the Edwin V. Johnson Newsroom.

WHAV News Director Dana Esmel reads a bulletin in the Edwin V. Johnson Newsroom.

WASHINGTON— The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this morning formally granted 97.9 WHAV a final broadcast license for the station’s new FM signal.

The license to WHAV’s parent, Public Media of New England, was issued by Penelope A. Dade in the FCC’s Media Bureau. It is the last official step in bringing local radio to Haverhill.

“Hearty thanks go out to all of the donors and sponsors that made this great day possible,” said WHAV President and General Manager Tim Coco. “As a non-profit organization, WHAV relied on the public’s generosity to bring this project to a successful conclusion. Special thanks go out to Tom Bergeron, ABC’s ‘Dancing with the Stars’ host who began his career at WHAV in 1972 and served as honorary chairperson for WHAV’s “Make Waves” campaign.”

Tom Bergeron in WHAV's new Ward Hill studios during 2007.

Tom Bergeron in WHAV's new Ward Hill studios during 2007.

Coco said WHAV is already providing local news and weather, Community Spotlight and local talk. He said local programming will be greatly expanded during the coming weeks and months.

WHAV filed an application for the new FM station during November, 2013, during a rare “filing window” presented by the FCC. It was tentatively selected to receive a license during September, 2014, and issued an initial construction permit Jan. 9, 2015. A modified construction permit was issued this past May when WHAV was allowed to return to its original Silver Hill transmitter site. While WHAV had originally sought to use the transmitter site built for Haverhill’s first AM radio station, a challenge from another applicant for a time forced WHAV to consider building new facilities in East Haverhill.

Tim Coco, hosting WHAV's Open Mike Show, with guest Ken Smith.

Tim Coco, hosting WHAV's Open Mike Show, with guest Ken Smith.

Another obstacle WHAV had to overcome was winning its heritage call letters back when the U.S. Coast Guard placed the WHAV call sign on an oil industry barge, “Penn 91,” operated by Kirby Corporation. Curiously, the Haverhill Gazette found itself in the same position in 1947. The newspaper was almost forced to use the call letters WHGF for its new radio station since WHAV was assigned to the Haverhill Police Department’s shortwave radio station. Police Chief Henry J. Lynch agreed to swap letters, and the transaction won FCC approval Jan. 11, 1947.

Plans for the new FM were first laid out at the beginning of 2004, when WHAV began providing local programming on the internet at WHAV.net, followed by simulcasts on public access, education and government cable television channels throughout the region.

WHAV’s engineering was under the direction of David J. Doherty of Skywaves Consulting, Millbury. Washington, D.C., law firm Drinker Biddle & Reath represented WHAV before the FCC.

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