By Zach Laird
MethuenLife Writer

Perched behind his big oak desk and surrounded by a personal museum of platinum records, gold plaques and antique radios, Pat Costa stays busy maintaining a radio empire that took 35 years to build.

According to Costa, running five radio stations has not been easy. Costa, 76, who has been in the broadcasting industry for 35 years, has learned to walk that thin line like a trapeze artist across a tightrope. From running a recording studio in his mother’s basement to owning five highly popular radio channels throughout the Northeast, his roots in the radio industry began with a love for music.

“The way I see it, there are three stages to my life. At first, I was a musician and played drums in bands. Then I got the bug to get into the recording business,” Costa explained. “That’s where I found my passion for recording.”

Married to wife Susan for 54 years, Costa has formed the pillars of his life around chasing what he’s passionate about while also serving his community.

One of his earlier ventures fostered something of a local legend. A fitting testament to his work and stature in the world of recording, among others, was being awarded a platinum record of “New Kids on the Block,” the boy band’s self-titled debut album, as recognition for having sold over 1 million copies. The album was recorded in 1986 at a studio located at 462 Merrimack St., in Methuen, which has since been turned into Costa Eagle Media’s local headquarters for the WNNW radio station.

Costa also owns stations WCCM, WWUBG, WMVX and WHNM.

Having bought his first station in 1988, and four more since, Costa watched the landscape of radio and media morph over time. One of the biggest challenges currently, he states, was figuring out ways to adapt and integrate technology and cultural change into the way his stations operate. Officially becoming a full-blown Spanish channel in 1992, Costa’s operation began to blossom as more of the local community began to tune in to listen.

In recognition for his work with the Spanish community in radio, Costa was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame in June 2023.

“I’ve found that the best way to connect with the community is to serve it,” Costa explained. “If you serve the community, the community will respond.”

WNNW (800 AM/102.9 FM) has been cited as the No. 1 Spanish-language radio broadcaster in the Boston area.

“He’s always been local-focused,” said Kevin Wright, who has worked for Costa 17 years and is currently operations manager and program director. “He’s community-based, and it shows.

As one of only 151 people inducted into the Hall, recognition on behalf of the Hispanic community has left Costa humbled.

“I’ve always felt honored to serve the Hispanic community,” Costa commented. “That’s what it’s all about.”

The backbone of the radio station’s popularity, as Costa explains, is the close-knit relationship with the local community that has been fostered over the years.

Traversing the choppy waters of the Digital Age has left Costa and company focused on weaving together technology and tradition. Programs such as online podcasts and TV music channels were implemented to ride the ebbs and flows of the waves that modern streaming services have made in recent years. The computerization of everything has made the operation run smoother, but presents a new set of problems — such as a portion of listeners being lost to the vast, immediate nature of the Internet where anything is a click away.

“It’s about expanding in areas that we couldn’t expand in before,” Costa said. “It’s weird, but the Internet has sort of become a double-edged sword. … it’s more important than ever to be able to do more than just one thing, you add an extra dimension and provide more to the team.”

Costa has used his reach in good times and bad. During the 2018 natural-gas explosions that rocked the Merrimack Valley, the station had listeners call in and report news directly as they witnessed it. A clever move, Costa claims, that inspired an interactive aspect that encouraged local listeners to participate.

More recently, the station collaborated with state Sen. Bruce Tarr and conducted 17 stops, within the span of five days, to help needy families at Christmas. Over 3,000 toys were gathered and $20,000 was raised for struggling families. 

“I don’t think I know anybody who’s done more for their community through radio than Pat,” said Costa Eagle Business Manager Stephanie Cambria. “You look at how he stepped in to assist people during the (1990s) fires in Lawrence, and the toy drives for the children in the winter, it’s just inspiring.”

“When I look back at my time in radio, and what feels the most moving, it’s about when we get to help the community,” Costa reflected. “And when you have the community also lending a hand, literally delivering the news as it happened, it shows you how big of an impact you can have.”