Somerville City Councilor Ben Ewen-Campen reports that Bob Bittner, owner of WJIB, 740 AM, and four other ad-free stations on the Cape and in Maine, died today.
I’m heartbroken to learn that Bob Bittner passed away. He ran the indescribably great local radio station WJIB AM740, “The Memories Station.” What a beautiful life bringing this wonderful music into our homes, never playing ads, and reading his own PSAs. Thank you, Bob.
Bittner did not just own the stations, he was also the music director and DJ, with an easy-listening format of songs from the 1930s through the 1960s. Instead of accepting advertising, he relied on non-deductible donations from listeners.
In 2012, the Boston Phoenix profiled him:
Bob Bittner, the last auteur of terrestrial radio, presides over an 11-by-11-foot room in a Cambridge storage facility near Fresh Pond Mall. His U-shaped desk is cluttered with hundreds of hand-addressed envelopes - the fruits of his annual summer fund drive - bundled into thick, uneven parcels held together with rubber bands. ...
It's the only station whose outspokenly progressive DJ would speak out in favor of the Occupy movement or rant against the evils of the credit card industry to an audience largely comprising aging Republicans, then follow it up with an Andy Williams cover of "Impossible Dream."
H/t Ron Newman.