WJLX, a radio station in Jasper, Alabama, had a big problem when someone stole its tall radio tower. Because of this, the government told the station to stop broadcasting for a while. Brett Elmore, the boss of the station, was really surprised that something like this could happen.
“In all my years of being in the business, around the business, everything like that, I have never seen anything like this,” WJLX’s general manager, Brett Elmore, told the Guardian.
“You don’t hear of a 200ft tower being stolen,” he added.
He said he had never heard of anything like it before in all his years working in radio. The theft was found out when some workers who look after the area around the tower told Elmore that the tower was missing.
“They called me and said the tower was gone. And I said, ‘What do you mean, the tower is gone?’” Elmore said.
The tower, located in a wooded area behind a local poultry plant, had its wires cut and was removed entirely by the thieves. Additionally, the station’s AM transmitter, situated in a nearby building, was also stolen.
“This is a huge loss,” Elmore said. “People have reached out and asked how they can help, but I don’t know how you can help unless you have a 200ft tower and an AM transmitter.”
The repercussions of the theft were significant for the small radio station, as the property was uninsured. Elmore estimated the replacement cost of the tower to be between $100,000 to $150,000, an amount exceeding the station’s financial capacity.
Furthermore, the FCC ordered WJLX off the air due to the theft, as the station’s FM transmitter couldn’t operate independently while the AM station was down. This forced silence was a blow not only to the station but also to the community, which had long supported its local radio.
The incident drew widespread attention, with many speculating on the motive and execution of the theft. While theories ranged from a helicopter-assisted heist to a targeted effort to sell metal components, Elmore emphasized the need for surveillance footage from the nearby poultry plant or information from witnesses to aid in solving the case.
Despite the setback, Elmore remained optimistic about restoring operations. The station planned to resume broadcasting online while working diligently to bring the AM tower back up.
Elmore was thankful for the help from the people in Jasper. He promised to keep trying until the radio station was working again. He talked about how Jasper has always loved its radio stations. This theft showed that radio towers can be stolen, but it also showed how strong the community is when faced with tough times. Even though losing the tower was hard for WJLX, they were determined to fix things and keep serving their listeners.
The story of the stolen tower reminded everyone how important local radio is for bringing people together, especially during hard times. Elmore stayed positive, believing that the thieves would be caught and WJLX would be back on air soon, connecting with the community once more.
“The sad part is that Jasper has always been a radio town. They have always supported their local radio station,” Elmore said.
“Now we’re silent, but we won’t be silent for long. I’m gonna work tirelessly to get this thing back up and running, one way or the other.”