As children, we all have dreams. When we grow up and look back on our lives, how many of us can say that we’ve made our dreams come true?
As a child, Chris DiPaola listened to New York’s WNBC radio and dreamed of being in the radio business. Now, many years later, Chris has not one, not two, but three radio stations: WBLQ/1230AM, The Buzz/96.7 both out of Westerly, and WWRI/95.1FM out of Coventry, RI.
Famed author Henry David Thoreau wrote: “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” These words seem to express Chris’ journey and make it worth sharing with Westerly Life readers.
So, who is Chris DiPaola and how did he make his radio dreams come true?
Chris was born in Maine. His family moved to Westerly when he was only six months old and he has lived here ever since. He attended Ashaway Elementary School and then entered seventh grade at St. Michael’s in Pawcatuck. His high school years were a combination of St. Bernard’s and The Prout School.
At 15, this industrious teen had already landed a job in the radio business working at the original WBLQ, with John Fuller of today’s popular 106.5 FM/WBMW. After working under John’s leadership, Chris decided that he wanted to have his own station and started working toward that goal.
Chris’ official beginning in radio station development was in August 1994 when, at the age of 21, he developed a small unlicensed station from his grandmother’s basement in Dunn’s Corners. The call letters WCTD stood for his name, Christopher Thomas DiPaola. After much business growth and experience, today Chris’ business is called Diponti Communications and he is a well-known and very busy Westerly businessman.
Like many other entrepreneurs have done, in the early years Chris used up his savings and put everything on the line to make things happen. Eventually, he rented studio space at 4 Canal Street and put up a second radio transmitter. Chris said it was a bit of an unusual beginning “because nobody tried to do low powered AM that was unlicensed,” but that is what he did.
Chris explains: “Part 15 of FCC rules allows you to broadcast with an AM transmitter at a tenth of a watt and I found a way to cover about a mile with it. But in that day and age (before internet streaming), it was kind of neat.” Knowing that a mile area was a start but not big enough to do what he had planned, he kept moving forward.
With a combination of selling AM transmitters and other jobs, Chris was able to maintain a living. He made choices that advanced the realization of his dreams. By July 1997, about three years after he started the station in his grandmother’s basement, Chris attained an initial license and construction permit to build up his own incarnation of WBLQ.
According to Chris, the FCC gives you 18 months to build a station and he was in experimental mode starting in September of that year, at a very low wattage. By the time November rolled around, he had the new transmitter and everything was working.
Everything finally fell together, and his station became official on December 8, 1997. He went on the air from 4 Canal Street in downtown Westerly.
Over the years, WBLQ’s evolution has had various spots on the radio dial starting at 88.1 FM, to 96.9 FM, to 96.7FM, finally finding its current home at 1230 AM. All these changes happened for various business reasons which demonstrate the complexity of the radio business and the dedication Chris has put into achieving his dreams.
Today WBLQ “is a full-service local community radio station featuring local and national News, Sports, Personalities, and Great Music”, has five-weekday staff and “a bunch” on the weekends. WBLQ does a lot of on-location broadcasting at community events. There are many paid sponsors and a lot of community comradery involved in the WBLQ experience.
Chris and his WBLQ crew fill a crucial need whenever the area has a huge storm and power outages. His station becomes a lifeline of communication during those times. Even if there are no storms to broadcast WBLQ is a font of information every day – whether it is covering town information, sports news, finances, veterans, or schools, there’s something for everyone, so if you haven’t discovered WBLQ yet, please tune in.
Chris’ second station, 96.7/The Buzz is an FM alternative music station founded in 2010, and the newest station, 95.1 FM plays Classic Rock was acquired in 2015.
In addition to being an accomplished multi-radio station Owner, President, and General Manager, Chris is active with civic groups in the Westerly/Charlestown community and has won many awards. As much as he loves radio and doesn’t plan on leaving it anytime soon, Chris’ number one priority is being a husband and father and he’s currently trying to dream up more ways to have more family time. His track record in making his dreams come true has been excellent so far, so we trust that he can accomplish this one too.