A small-town radio station manager had a big surprise when he learned the station’s 200-foot radio tower and transmitter in Jasper, Alabama, was missing.
Brett Elmore, the general manager of WJLX, said his landscaper had been doing a cleanup of the property Friday when the crew discovered the tower was gone.
Every piece of equipment had also been stolen and the wires to the tower had been cut at the site, Elmore said in a Facebook post.
“I have heard of thieves in this area stealing anything, but this one takes the cake,” he said.
The Jasper Police Department is investigating the theft, Jasper Police Public Information Officer Rachel Karr told CNN.
Elmore told CNN Tuesday he was still shocked the tower, which had been in place since the 1950s, was no longer standing.
“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. I will be satisfied when that happens,” he said. “But I’ll tell you one thing… You’re not going to keep me down.”
Since the theft knocked the AM station off the air, WJLX petitioned for the FCC to give it a waiver to continue to broadcast on the FM station, which was still on the air, Elmore said.
But on Thursday, the agency denied the request, saying FM translators are prohibited from operating when the AM primary station is off the air.
Elmore said the FCC told him it did not make an exception to this rule “even given the unfortunate circumstances you describe. W268BM must cease operation while WJLX remains off the air.” The station is still streaming online, Elmore added.
CNN has reached out to the FCC for comment.
Elmore, who grew up in the small city about 40 miles northwest of Birmingham, said radio has always been a part of his life and is a big part of the community.
“This has always been a radio town. People here love the radio station and has always supported it,” he said Tuesday.
On Thursday, Elmore noted the station would be “in a jam” even if it is found: “It will be in pieces. We would have to rebuild it.”
“The community here – they depend on us,” Elmore told CNN. “The main part of broadcasting is to serve your community and our community has had its radio voice silenced.”