In Jasper, Alabama, the manager of a small-town radio station, Brett Elmore, received a shocking surprise when he discovered that the station’s 200-foot radio tower and transmitter were missing.
The general manager of WJLX, Elmore, revealed that during a property cleanup on Friday, the crew found that the tower had vanished, with all the associated equipment stolen and the wires to the tower cut on-site.
Expressing his disbelief on Facebook, Elmore mentioned that while he was aware of thieves stealing various items in the area, this incident surpassed any previous experiences. The Jasper Police Department is currently investigating the theft, according to Jasper Police Public Information Officer Rachel Karr.
In an interview with CNN, Elmore conveyed his shock, especially considering the tower had been in place since the 1950s. Highlighting the seriousness of the offense, Elmore stated, “This is a federal offense when you tamper with a broadcast facility. It will carry some serious prison time if we can catch who did this.”
Despite the setback of the AM station going off the air due to the theft, WJLX sought a waiver from the FCC to allow broadcasting on the still-functioning FM station.
However, the FCC denied the request on Thursday, citing regulations prohibiting FM translators from operating when the AM primary station is offline.
Elmore expressed his dissatisfaction with the FCC’s decision, mentioning that while the station continues to stream online, being off the air poses challenges for the community, which relies on WJLX.
He emphasized that radio has always been integral to the small city, and the community depends on the station’s voice for local service.
Looking ahead, Elmore noted the potential difficulties even if the stolen tower is recovered: “It will be in pieces. We would have to rebuild it.” Despite the challenges, he remains determined, asserting, “You’re not going to keep me down.”
The incident not only raises concerns about the impact on the radio station but also underscores the importance of community radio in areas like Jasper, where it has been a longstanding and cherished part of local life.