Sylva’s WRGC could get bigger, cover from Haywood to SwainWritten by Quintin Ellison
Sylva might hear its local AM radio station WRGC back on the air — but the company involved wants a loan of $289,000 from Jackson County’s economic development fund to make it happen.
Roy Burnette, the CEO of the hopefully formed, embryonic 540 Broadcasting Co., said that he wants the future WRGC to intensely pursue the local part of local radio. But having said that, the geographic designation of “local” for WRGC would change, Burnette said.
Burnette wants to expand the range of WRGC allowing 540 Broadcasting to reach from east of Canton in Haywood County to Topton in Swain County — if he is able to get permission from the Federal Communications Commission for the extra power. The future WRGC would broadcast at 5,000 watts. Asked to explain the expansion of the Sylva-based radio station for the not-so-technical minded potential radio listener, Burnette suggested one mentally compare the light received from a 1,000-watt light bulb to a 5,000-watt light bulb.
“We want to offer in-depth service to Jackson, Macon, Swain and Haywood,” said Burnette on his plans for extensive regional radio reach.
Burnette has been in regional radio for years, including stints in Bryson City and Sylva. Additionally, he worked as a radio instructor for Southwestern Community College.
The Sylva radio station went dead in late August, a victim of dwindling advertising revenue dollars in a hard-knock economy. WRGC was owned by Georgia-Carolina Radiocasting Co. If no one buys it and claims the frequency within a year, the license for that frequency would be lost.
It’s the expansion possibility, which promises a wider net of potential advertisers, that’s attracting notice at the county level.
“The 5,000-watt license is the big interest since the signal area would be substantially greater than current coverage area,” County Manager Chuck Wooten said.
And that, Wooten added, would “provide an opportunity to generate significantly more advertising revenue.”
Regional radio personality and Sylva resident Gary Ayers earlier had expressed interest in buying WRGC. Ayers retreated from the idea after he said local advertising interest seemed tepid.
“I talked to the owners the other day and said if this guy can make it go, then great,” Ayers said Monday. “If not, then let me know and let’s talk again.”
Art Sutton of Georgia-Carolina Radiocasting Co. declined to comment for now on the evolving deal.
Ayers said the most important point to him is that Sylva regains a local radio station.
“We are going to put a huge focus on community-based programming,” Burnette said.
Burnette said he hopes to have WRGC on the air by Dec. 10.
What price local radio?
540 Broadcasting Co. submitted a request for a $289,000 loan from Jackson County. Of that, $250,000 would be used to purchase the radio license from current owner Georgia-Carolina Radiocasting Co., and $39,000 would be used to acquire equipment needed to install the 5,000-watt station. 540 Broadcasting would provide an additional $100,000 in working capital. Payments on the county loan would be deferred until May 2012, and then be paid over ten years (40 quarterly payments) at an interest rate of 2 percent. Jimmy Childress (WRGC’s founder) would rent 540 Broadcasting the building, equipment and property where tower is located; collateral for the loan would be the radio license and equipment.
A public hearing on the loan will be held Dec. 12 at 2 p.m. at the county’s boardroom. Commissioners are scheduled to meet that same day at 2:15 p.m. to consider the request.
Source: Jackson County