TOWER HEIST: Alabama station’s 200-foot radio tower goes missing
02/15/2024 // Kevin Hughes // Views

A radio station in Jasper, Alabama has reported that thieves were somehow able to steal the station's 200-foot radio tower, as well as other equipment from the station.

The station, WJLX, sent a landscaping crew to the site on Feb. 2 for spring cleaning, only to discover the 200-foot radio tower missing. When a crew member called the station's general manager to break the news, he was in disbelief.

"What do you mean the tower is gone? Are you sure you’re in the right place? I actually used more colorful words than that," station owner and general manager Brett Elmore told NBC News in an interview. "He said there's wires all over the ground and the tower is gone."

Not only was the radio tower stolen, but an adjacent building was also wrecked. The thieves stole every piece of equipment from the building, along with a transmitter. Elmore has filed a report with the police.

"There was a meeting between the owner and our investigators concerning the matter. At this point, we are still lacking information that we have to have to conduct a full-fledged investigation," Jasper Mayor David O'Mary told NBC News on Thursday, Feb. 8. (Related: Report: Birmingham, Alabama has highest cost of crime per capita in the entire country.)

WJLX informed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that its AM station was silent. The station was expected to remain broadcasting its program through FM radio in the meantime.

"We requested a temporary authority to keep the FM translator on until we get the AM back on the air. But unfortunately, this morning, I was notified the FCC denied our request to stay on air on the FM side, so actually, we're about to go power down the transmitter," Elmore said on Thursday.

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Despite the setbacks, Elmore has confidence that WJLX will get better.

"Unfortunately, the site was not insured. We're a small-market station, but we're going to get back, and we're going to be back on the air as soon as we possibly can," Elmore said.

Replacing the tower could cost the WJLX station between $100,000 to $150,000

With the station's property not insured, Elmore said replacing the tower could cost the station anywhere between $100,000 to $150,000, which is "more money than we have."

"This is a huge loss. People have reached out and asked how they can help, but I don't know how you can help unless you have a 200-foot tower and an AM transmitter," Elmore said.

As news of the tower theft has gone viral, Elmore stated that several people have reached out to him and local police with their theories on the tower's disappearance. Elmore shared that a guy from Virginia had even called to say that a helicopter grabbed the tower.

WJLX wasn't the only radio station hit by thieves recently. Elmore mentioned that six months ago, a neighboring radio station had their air conditioning unit, copper pipes and other materials stolen.

He isn't sure if the robberies are related, but he thinks thieves may have targeted WJLX's tower and transmitter to make a quick buck from selling the metal.

Despite the bad news, Elmore is hopeful that the surveillance video from nearby poultry plant, or the people employed at the plant, can help piece together who stole the station's tower. "Surely, someone saw something or heard something," Elmore said.

"The sad part is that Jasper has always been a radio town. They have always supported their local radio station. 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."

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