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Wednesday, 22 February 2012 21:14

Sylva radio station waiting for final pieces to fall into place

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It will be several more weeks at best before Sylva AM radio station WRGC gets back on the air, pending approval from the Federal Communications Commission to grant the station a license.

Word that the station would resume broadcasting around Valentine’s Day were rumors, said Roy Burnette, who is trying to revive the radio station. In addition to securing the license, Burnette is waiting on a final piece of funding in the form of a Jackson County economic development loan.

WRGC went dead last August, a victim of dwindling advertising dollars in a hard-knock economy. WRGC was owned by Georgia-Carolina Radiocasting Co., which currently operates radio stations in Franklin.

Burnette wants to buy the station and expand its reach from east of Canton in Haywood County to Topton in Swain County, which in theory also would expand advertising-revenue possibilities and make the station financially feasible.

Burnette, CEO of the new 540 Broadcasting Co., asked county leaders for a $289,000 loan to make his dreams come true. Jackson County commissioners have approved $179,000 of the loan outright and are poised to extend the remainder — if the county can figure out reasonable collateral to cover the loan if the radio station owner defaults. Efforts to protect the county by joining Burnette as a co-license holder on his FCC permit were rejected by the federal agency.

Of the total $289,000 loan, Burnette wanted $250,000 to purchase the actual radio license from Georgia-Carolina Radiocasting Co. Some $39,000 was designated for acquiring the equipment needed to install the 5,000-watt station. Burnette would provide $100,000 in his own dollars for working capital.

The county has agreed that payments on the loan would be deferred until May 2012 and then be paid during the next 10 years in 40 quarterly payments at an interest rate of 2 percent.

County Manager Chuck Wooten said that Jackson leaders “are still having to work through” possible collateral and that Burnette might be asked to pledge personal assets.

“He seems amenable,” Wooten said.

For his part, Burnette said he’s simply “waiting on the FCC to grant the license for a transfer.” That will also allow him on moving forward with building a new transmitter.

“Everything will be top quality — the signal and service,” Burnette said.

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