The WILW Radio Blog

The Passing of a Radio Pioneer

Sunday, October 30, 2022 1:44 PM

It is with much sadness I have to report the passing of a friend from many years ago that I had the pleasure to know personally and also work with at his radio stations in Westerly, Rhode Island.  Chis DiPaola, co-owner of WBLQ AM 1230 in Westerly, RI and WWRI AM 1450 in West Warwick, RI passed away suddenly from an aparent heart attack at the age of 49 on October 13.  

I had the opportunity to work at Chris’s first radio station called WCTD AM 1620 in the late 1990’s which was a Part 15 AM station located in downtown Westerly and covered downtown Westerly, Dunn’s Corners, RI and downtown Stonington, CT and later at his LPFM station WBLQ for a brief period.  More to follow on his work in Part 15 AM broadcasting shortly.   Links to his work in commercial radio in recent years can more adequately be covered during the last one to two decades of his life in radio than I can write about here.

Ramp247 article.

WJAR TV article. 

Westerly Sun article.

Obituary from

Initially in the 1990’s Chris was best known for his work and development of Part 15 AM broadcasting into a commercial enterprise.  He was a true Pioneer in this field of radio and it is probable that he owned and operated the first fully commercial Part 15 AM radio station in the country.  The story goes like this.  In 1992 Chris contacted the FCC in Washington to find out if there was any way to obtain a license for a radio station that exceeded the 10 watt non commercial school stations that were still operating in some schools.  He was told that only stations exceeding certain power levels and standards set by the FCC were possible for AM and FM.  All were too costly for Chris to own due to his young age and lack of funds and financial backing.  Not to be deterred Chris contacted the FCC not long afterward again and asked if any legal unlicensed broadcasting was allowed.  He learned about Part 15 broadcasting and the FCC gave him the name of a company in Minnesota called Ultra Sensors Inc. that manufactured a legal FCC approved transmitter for unlicensed use on the AM band.  

At this point Chris installed transmitters at his home in Dunn’s Corners and soon afterward downtown Westerly, RI and developed a full service format on WCTD AM 1620 replete with local on air talent and station help and a music format that consisted mostly of Adult Contemporary from the 70’s and 80’s.  He started to market the station to downtown businesses that could air the station during business hours and entertain their clients or customers and employees.  He started to air live remotes from the downtown businesses and also events and aired commercials for several businesses in the area.  In adddition he aired Sunday church services on the station for a period of time.  Despite the limited range of the station which covered Downtown Westerly and Stonington, CT and Dunn’s Corners, the station had a strong following thanks to Chris’s tireless efforts to promote the station to the local area even with WERI AM 1230 firmly entrenched in the town for decades.  

It was during this time in the mid 1990’s that Chris decided to take Part 15 AM broadcasting to another level and decided that marketing the very transmitter he used to the general public across the country.  Chris struck a deal with Ultra Sensors Inc. the manufacturer of the Trans AM 100 transmitter to sell the unit to customers around the country.  By the end of the decaded dozens of Part 15 AM stations had sprung up in cities and towns around the country thanks to Chris.  The initial use of these transmitters as a means for real estate offices to sell properties or auto dealers to sell cars and churches to air sermons had now found a new niche for both commercial and non commercial professonal on air stations that sounded just like high powered non commercial and commercial radio stations but with a limited range of a half mile to perhaps a few miles radius depending upon the kind of transmitter installation and the location.

As WCTD AM grew in listening audience so did its revenue thanks to more advertising, live remotes in the Westerly area and transmitter sales around the country.  By the time licensed LPFM became an FCC approved broadcast service, Chris founded a non profit organization and was able to obtain a LPFM license for WBLQ FM.  After WBLQ FM hit the airwaves WCTD AM 1620’s days were numbered.  Chris and the non profit group decided to invest their time and efforts into the licensed station and let the unlicensed Part 15 AM station go dark.  Running WBLQ LPFM for a few years eventually led to the purchase of WERI AM 1230 by Chris and his business partner from WCTD AM  Steve Conti.  They were now back in commercial radio again in the local area and took the basics of live and/or local on air shows to WERI AM and turned it into a success.

Chris DiPaola is largely responsible for the development of professonal unlicensed AM broadcating in this country and this should not be overlooked.  Several years after he marketed the USI Trans AM 100 transmitters to the public, new transmitters came onto the market like the Hamilton Rangemaster and Chez Radio Procasters to compete with the USI unit and also Talking House transmitters that had been around for many years but had not been marketed or used as a commercial radio broadcaster or professional hobby or non profit broadcasting station like WCTD AM.    Everyone in this country that has purchased and operated a Hamilton Rangemastter, Chez Radio Procaster or similar transmitter which ultimately supplanted the USI Trans AM 100 unit has Chris DiPaola to thank for giving us the impetus to develop our own legal, unlicensed commercial or non commercial or hobby radio stations to serve our neighborhoods, towns and ciites in every state in this country. Thousands of these transmitters have been sold thanks to Chris and his idea to find a niche for small stations that large licensed stations cannot service. He hit a home run in that respect and he should be remembered for this work in addition to his time with WBLQ AM and FM in Westerly.