Economy does what Katrina couldn’t

Published 12:36 am Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Poplarville’s only radio station, WRPM-AM 15.30, apparently has become a victim of the economic woes rolling across the nation.

In a telephone interview last Thursday morning station manager Thomas Vaughn said the station had ceased operation and that the shutdown had come with no warning.

He said an engineer with Coast Radio Group, the station’s parent company, came up from Biloxi and shut down the station’s equipment earlier that day.

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A second call to Coast Radio Group Tuesday by the Poplarville Democrat confirmed that the station was closed down but no further information was provided. The first call for information placed last Thursday was not returned but the Democrat learned that the information request was received by Coast Radio’s management.

In an earlier article (Katrina couldn’t knock local radio station down, Oct. 13, 2005) the station was listed as a sister station to WZKX Kicker 108 on the gulf coast, under the ownership of Morgan Dowdy.

The only explanation given to Vaughn for the shutdown was the downturn in the economy. He did know advertising revenue had been down and he indicated there had been no one doing advertising sales for the station, Vaughn said.

He said there were possible options that could see the station sold or leased and back on the air within a year of the shutdown. He said that to maintain the 1530 AM frequency slot a sale or lease would have to be accomplished within a year because of FCC licensing regulations.

“If the price is right, someone could come in and get the station going (before the year deadline),” Vaughn said.

WRPM received its license in 1962, he said. For a time the station had provided an eclectic mix of popular tunes of the 50s and 60s over a broad range of genre.

Vaughn said in January, 1997, the station ceased to be a country music station and in July of that year began broadcasting in an all-Gospel format.

In addition to gospel music, the station also aired church services from the First Baptist Church of Poplarville and the Steephollow Baptist Church.

The Rev. Tommy Anthony, pastor at First Baptist, said Thursday he was unaware of the change. He indicated that the church probably would seek another avenue for getting the church’s message delivered over the air.

Larry Boone, owner of Boone’s Pharmacy and one of the sponsors for the First Baptist Church broadcast, said he had not heard of the change either and did not know what steps might be taken about the church’s broadcasts.

Information received from the Steephollow Baptist Church indicated the church was aware of the change but that no plans had been made regarding further broadcasts.