The civic wages of radio service


Loudon County, Virginia is trying to choose between having a truly local radio station and protecting its environment – a proposal to restore WAGE-AM Leesburg VA to service is supported by environmental groups – just not at the proposed site.

Loudon County is in the Washington DC media market, but WAGE was pulled off the air by owner Potomac Radio LLC, held 50-50 by the Edwin Tornberg Living Trust and James M. Weitzman. According to an article in the Leesburg Times, PR says the signal of the station no longer reaches enough of the key local population to support the station.

They have a CP for an upgrade, taking the station from 5 kw-D, 1 kw-N, DAN on 1200 kHz to 50 kw-D, 1.3 kw-N, DA2 on 1190 kHz. The FCC currently lists the station as licensed/off air.

But the proposed site where the company wants to erect three towers and a transmitter building is on a floodplain, and has drawn opposition from the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition and the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy.

Conservationists agreed that getting WAGE back on the air would be a good thing, but at a different location.
At a county government public hearing on the topic, other groups supported construction of the new facilities for the station, noting that a local air presence was needed in times of emergency – for example, the events of 9/11/01 were very much a local news story for the counties ringing Washington. Local citizens expressed their desire for a local broadcast outlet where they could get information specific to their county.

According to the article, PR’s Weitzman said, “WAGE’s signal just became inadequate to serve the changed living situation, the changed working situation. We need to be able to be financially viable. We need to be able to reach people where they want to hear the radio station.”

RBR-TVBR observation: Finding a proper balance among many conflicting concerns is a constant battle at every level of government. Protecting the environment is important; so is having access to emergency information. Potomac Radio cannot provide that information if it isn’t economically viable. Nobody is against the idea of a successful WAGE, which should at least make it easier for Loudon County to find a solution that everybody can get behind.