Where’s WAGE?

Potential listeners want to know: Where is WAGE Radio, the Loudoun-based AM station that went off the air in August 2009?

WAGE Radio, owned by Potomac Radio, had planned to return to air on Oct. 31. But, financing and procurement snafus stalled the relaunch, Randall Minchew, Potomac Radio’s former legal representative told the Times-Mirror in November.

Many who have been looking forward to the new station have been left to wonder when it will finally come
“As a totally blind person, I have always had a love for radio of all types and hope WAGE can return to its former standing as a station which emphasized public service to Loudoun County,” said Annandale resident Chris Ramsay, who is anxiously awaiting the station’s return.

Despite a months-long delay in construction, the station’s new, three 195-foot lattice-tower AM radio transmitter towers have been raised at the intersection of Loudoun County Parkway and Gloucester Parkway in the Route 28 corridor. Still, its signal remains silent.

In 2009, WAGE went dark after more than 50 years as Loudoun’s local radio station. Immediately after shutting down, Potomac Radio began searching for a site for its new 50,000-watt towers – a 10-fold increase in the station’s previous wattage. The towers cost Potomac Radio $2 million.

Supervisor Stevens Miller (D-Dulles) said the board has no official capacity to enforce timeliness upon WAGE Radio’s schedule. The supervisors’ task was to review Potomac Radio’s land use application to see if it adhered to the rule book for that area.

Miller voted for the application in 2009. He said he was impressed by the fact that the Commonwealth’s Attorney had come to speak at the public hearing, saying that the station could be useful for Amber alerts. Miller said he hoped the station would be beneficial to the community. The application passed by a 7-2 vote, with Supervisors Kelly Burk (D-Leesburg) and Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin) against it.

Burk voted against Potomac Radio’s land use application because the station’s increased wattage suggested to her that it would not feature local programming.

“I still don’t think its going to be serving community,” she said. “I really don’t foresee it being a community radio station. But, time will tell.”

In November, Minchew said the construction site was “a beehive of activity” and that the tower’s concrete footers were laid and a crane was ready for the “erector set of antennas.”

The towers should have been completed before Thanksgiving, he said at the time.

Nearly two months later, the station is still static.

Potomac Radio’s president Alan Pendleton did not return repeated attempts for comment.

In an e-mail statement, Minchew said Jan. 21 that he does not have any new information and has “not monitored the work on the construction of the new WAGE station.”

Miller suggested that the down economy and the recent recession could be a factor in the delay of the station’s relaunch.

“I don’t know what their finances are,” he said.

WAGE sounded off in September, playing music and the program, “Wall Street Journal Today,” a syndicated program that is not reflective of WAGE’s future programming, he said.
The program played in the mornings and evenings for nearly eight days to ensure the station’s window of silent time had not elapsed under the Federal Communications Commission regulations.

Minchew said in November that WAGE’s transformation was “not a deal that didn’t have a few hiccups.”

“I think folks find AM radio as a comfortable place to be, something to keep lonely people and shut-ins company, too,” Ramsay said. “It serves a number of great purposes, so when someone says, ‘who cares about WAGE?’  I say that many more people than you think care about it. “

Contact the writer at hhager@timespapers.com.

This article was first published by Hannah Hager on LoudounTimes.com.

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