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WJLX Looks to Rebuild After Having Its Radio Tower Stolen

But the FCC declined to let it continue to operate its FM translator

A week ago, staff at WJLX(AM) were stunned by the discovery that their 200-foot radio tower had disappeared overnight. Now that the literal and figurative dust has settled, the community station serving Jasper, Ala., is looking to rebuild, even without a helping hand from the government.

This week, WJLX filed requested and received special temporary authority (STA) with the Federal Communications Commission, reporting the damage to its site behind a local poultry plant on a dead-end road. The FCC can grant an STA to permit immediate or temporary operation of certain radio facilities during emergencies or other urgent conditions.

The station filed another STA requesting permission to continue broadcasting on its FM translator. But, on Thursday, that request was denied, and WJLX turned its FM translator off.

This image shows WJLX’s AM tower and transmitter site in Jasper, Ala., prior to the theft. The 200-foot tower was discovered missing Friday, Feb. 2, 2024. (Photo: Brett Elmore)

WJLX is a 1 kW nondirectional AM station on 1240 kHz. The FM translator at 101.5 operates from a different location.

“They stole every piece of equipment out of the building, cut the guy wires to the tower and somehow managed to down a 200-foot tower and take it from the property,” Brett Elmore, general manager of WJLX told Radio World last Sunday. The stolen equipment included the station transmitter.

Elmore told us on Friday that the FCC’s denial of the STA wasn’t surprising. “While disappointed, I respect the FCC decision. They have not deviated from the rules in the past, even though [these] circumstances are truly unheard of.”

The FCC justified its denial of Elmore’s request stating: “Section 74.1263(b) prohibits FM translators from operating when the AM primary station is off the air. We have not made exceptions to this rule, even given the unfortunate circumstances you describe. W268BM must cease operation while WJLX remains off the air.”

Since news broke of the tower’s disappearance, WJLX’s story has been featured in a slew of news coverage from media organizations big and small, reaching far beyond the normal radio circles. Outlets such as the The Guardian, People and the Associated Press have all picked up the story, and that’s just to name a few.

“The response has been tremendous, both locally and internationally,” said Elmore. “People, obviously, are interested in the story. Amazed by it. I’ve heard from so many of our radio colleagues offering words of encouragement and ways to help. That is why we set up the GoFundMe.”

As WJLX did not have its AM site insured, the station is looking to raise a hefty $60,000 to cover the costs of purchasing a new transmitter and tower, along with financing all the various equipment and engineering work needed to rebuild. As of Friday afternoon, the GoFundMe fundraiser has raised about $1,400.

“We just want to get back on the air and continue to do great radio,” said Elmore. “Any help will be greatly appreciated. We will build back and be stronger than ever after this.”

Despite the unlikely circumstances of the past week, Elmore says “morale is good.”

“We are a small-market station, so we are like a small family,” he told Radio World. “We know we will be back on the air.”

Although both broadcast signals are down, WJLX’s programming can still be streamed on its website.

[Related: “Concrete Truck Brings Down WNIX’s Radio Tower“]