Station has down-home appeal
Through the Internet, www.WKMXlive.com takes requests for songs from throughout the world.
By GAIL WHITE
WELLSVILLE -- In the world of radio broadcasting where stations are owned by huge conglomerates and disc jockeys often are pre-recorded and broadcasting from another state, there is WKMX 1620 AM in Wellsville.
If you'd like to request a song to be played on WKMX, you can call in or e-mail during "Skip's Diner" every Tuesday and Thursday evening from 8-11 p.m. Skip Hamilton will be happy to flip through his CDs and find your tune for you. And, if he doesn't have it, he'll go online and buy it.
Of course, if your heart is yearning for a song any other time of the week, you're welcome to stop by the station on Main Street, knock on the window in front of the DJ and shout your request.
Advertising sales have the same small-town feel.
If you own a business in Wellsville, chances are you have talked with Mayor Joe Surace about advertising on WKMX.
Swaps for ads
Just because he likes the idea of a hometown station, Surace has gone door to door drumming up commercials at 5 a pop. All the proceeds from the ads go to pay the licensing fee for the station.
"Sometimes I swap commodities for radio spots," he said.
So far he has swapped spots for carpet for the station, construction of a platform for the DJs and a number of general repair projects.
During football season, the station ran a special: 200 for three ads running before, during and after the game as well as throughout the week -- for the entire season.
Though the hometown feel of WKMX gives the station a certain charm, what is fascinating about this small, 1000-watt station is that it can be heard worldwide.
"A lot of stations are adding Internet radio," said Terry Brown, who owns WKMX. He also owns Sitaclabs, a computer networking and repair company in East Liverpool.
Hosted by a server in the United Kingdom, www.WKMXlive.com shares the life and times on Main Street with the world. The regular, 10-foot antenna carries the signal over the air for just under two miles.
"My main focus now is on Internet video," Brown said about the next phase in the development of his radio station. He is in the process of placing cameras in the studio for online video.
"We broadcast right from a computer to a computer," Brown said. "I can control this whole station from anywhere."
It is a technology that even the big radio conglomerates are perfecting. But that is the only aspect of business that WKMX shares with the big stations.
"The whole idea of every radio station is to serve the community," Brown said. "It upsets me that stations don't seem to care what the community wants anymore."
Ironically, WKMX came into existence because Brown and the Business Association of East Liverpool had fought to save community programming on a local station that had converted to ESPN programming.
When much of the programming was cut despite the group's efforts, Brown decided to petition the FCC for a license, and WKMX was born. Originally, the station was located in East Liverpool.
"I came to Wellsville just to put up a transmitter," Brown said. "The mayor wanted a station in town. He got on the phone and a half-hour later, I had keys to a building."
Surace said the idea of a station in town "caught my fancy."
"Wellsville has never had our own radio station. We're rather proud of it. We're trying to do it on a shoestring budget, but we're going to hang in there and make sure it happens. It's working through the help of different organizations in the village all for the good of the people and the kids of our community."
The building was donated rent-free by a local lawyer and philanthropist.
Terry met his benefactor at the grand opening of WKMX, while munching on hot dogs and drinking pop that were donated by the local Save-A-Lot.
"He introduced himself and I said, 'Hi. What do you do?'" Brown recalled with a chuckle. "He said, 'I own your building.'"
In the same hospitable Wellsville fashion, the local director of the animal shelter, after being interviewed on WKMX, returned to the station with friends and decorated the front window for Christmas, complete with tinsel, lights and a tree.
Nationwide and global links
The people of Wellsville aren't the only ones benefiting from the programming on WKMX.
Through online tracking, Brown has learned that WKMX has listeners from New York to California and even a few in Iraq.
"The first time it really hit me was when I got a call from North Carolina asking for a song request," Brown said.
Of course, WKMX played the song for the distant listener.
"We play a mix of everything," Brown says. "Rock, oldies, country, hip-hop ... whatever people want."
What people want, it seems, besides a little song is a big dose of a small town. They're finding that hometown atmosphere and personal attention on WKMX -- whether they live a stone's throw up the river or across the world.