U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Alabama radio station ceases transmission after broadcast tower stolen

Incident Details


WJLX’s AM radio tower disappeared on Feb. 2, leaving behind a concrete slab and cut wires.

February 2, 2024

A 200-foot AM radio tower for Jasper, Alabama, broadcaster WJLX was stolen “without a trace” on Feb. 2, 2024, according to the station.

“I’ve been around the business my whole life, I’ve been in it professionally for 26 years and I’ve never heard of an entire tower being stolen,” WJLX General Manager Brett Elmore told Birmingham television station WABM.

WJLX, which is now unable to broadcast on its AM frequency, said it has since had to shut down its broadcast operations entirely, including its FM station. The Federal Communications Commission told WJLX on Feb. 8 that it could not operate its FM transmitter while the AM station is off the air. It will continue to stream its programming only via the internet and its apps, it said.

Elmore has also filed a request with the FCC for WJLX to remain silent for now without losing its license, The Washington Post reported. The paper said if stations remain silent for more than one year, the FCC considers them expired.

The station’s absence was a cause for worry for Sharon Tinely, president of the Alabama Broadcasters Association, who told WABM, “What if there were a crisis going on right now that the community needs to hear information from local sources on a local radio station and they can’t.”

“This is a huge loss,” Elmore told the Guardian. “People have reached out and asked how they can help, but I don’t know how you can help unless you have a 200ft tower and an AM transmitter.”

The tower was uninsured, according to Elmore, and replacing it could cost $60,000-plus. WJLX has set up a GoFundMe account and so far raised over $8,000.

That station said it was alerted to the theft when a landscaping cleanup crew arrived at the tower site to clean up the property, only to find it completely cleared out by the thieves. “I couldn’t believe it,” Elmore recalled.” I asked him [the landscaper] if he was sure he was at the right place. He responded, ‘the tower is gone. Wires are scattered everywhere.’”

The radio tower was located in a wooded area, behind a local poultry plant, The Guardian reported. Elmore told the paper that thieves had cut the tower’s wires and somehow removed it, while also taking the station’s AM transmitter from a nearby building.

Elmore said he believes the thieves may have targeted the tower to sell the metal and also told The Guardian that about six months ago, a nearby radio station had its air conditioning unit, copper pipes and other materials stolen.

The station has filed charges with the Jasper Police Department and the case is currently under investigation.

“This is a federal crime and whoever did this it’s not worth your time, effort or energy,” Elmore told WABM. “Because when we find you, you are going to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].