Catawba College Foundation buying WSAT

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2014

Salisbury radio station WSAT-AM is being sold by CAP Communications, Inc. to a newly established Catawba College Foundation, the college said in a news release.
Although WSAT will continue its traditional broadcasts with longtime announcer and current owner Buddy Poole remaining in his role as president and general manager overseeing day-to-day operations, the station will have a new purpose. It will become the platform for Catawba College students majoring in business or communication arts hoping to pursue careers in radio broadcasting.
The foundation is paying Poole $600,000 for the station, according to a contract filed with the Federal Communications Commission. That includes paying off $124,000 note Newbridge Bank holds on the business. The remainder will be paid $100,000 up front and $376,000 over a period of seven years, according to the contract.
Bill Graham of Salisbury, a Catawba College trustee and 1983 alumnus, has been the driving force behind the establishment of the Catawba Foundation and the new arrangement with Poole and Catawba, the college’s news release said. Profits from the operation of WSAT will be donated to Catawba.
“Buddy gives us 50 years of experience to go along with our professors and to be able to actually work at a real live station will be a drawing card for prospective Catawba students,” Graham said. “We are not changing Memories 1280 WSAT, we’re bringing students in to gain business and broadcasting experience and to learn at a successful radio station.
“Buddy insists that we serve Salisbury and the Rowan County community and we will continue with the Birthday Calendar, contests, Rowan American Legion Baseball, and of course, Catawba sports.”
Graham noted that another growing part of broadcasting is the Internet. WSAT plans to expand its online offerings by assigning Catawba students to cover police, fire, crime, severe weather situation and more.
“This will give Rowan County even more up-to-date news,” Graham said.
With the start of the 2014-2015 academic year, Catawba will launch a sports communication concentration that it plans to grow into an academic major, the news release said. This new concentration will be an option to students pursuing an undergraduate degree in communication arts, an academic program at the college chaired by Dr. Tim Moreland. Students pursuing this concentration will be learning to do play by play, interviews and features on student athletes. They will also be able to tap into resources offered by collaborations with the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association, now located on Catawba’s campus, and WSAT.
Moreland said the new arrangement between WSAT and Catawba is a win-win situation for the station and the college, especially for students in our Ketner School of Business that houses both business and communication arts.
“We will have a wonderful opportunity to prepare our students for the broadcasting workforce through experiences learned on campus and at Memories 1280,” he said. “Students will also give WSAT more boots on the ground to sell advertising, and to develop and produce content for air and online.”
Poole started at WSAT 50 years ago and recalls how helpful his own hands-on experience at the station he now manages was to him.
“Harry Welch Sr. gave me an opportunity when I was a junior at South Rowan High School. I started selling radio advertising on commission and slowly worked my way on air,” Poole remembered.
“Local radio is still alive and I believe many students can learn while here and Catawba and perhaps go home and buy their own radio station. We want to help hometown radio have the talent it needs on the air and the talent it needs in the sales force to be successful.”
Poole worked in radio in Durham, Burlington, High Point and Thomasville before returning to Salisbury in 2002 and buying WSAT from Charles Welch.
“I came back home to where I started, and I believe we can train Catawba students to do what I was able to do,” he said.
Catawba College President Brien Lewis praised the innovative arrangement and Graham for shepherding the concept to fruition.
“This arrangement gives Catawba and WSAT some new strengths to leverage in today’s very competitive marketplace for students and listeners. It also undergirds something I have been keen on since arriving in Salisbury two years ago — increasing and improving Catawba’s town-gown relationships.
“The college and the community share many opportunities to enhance our symbiosis. We are fortunate that our new relationship with WSAT has come to fruition, on the heels of our enhanced relationship with the NSSA that relocated to our campus this past year.”