WV community comes together hoping to save local radio station

Published: Feb. 23, 2023 at 6:21 PM EST
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FISHER, Wv. (WHSV) - Radio employees in Fisher, West Virginia have been gathering support from across the community in an effort to save their local station. 101.7 WELD will be auctioned off on April 4.

“When you’re a kid you grow up and WELD might not have been your first go-to for a listening source but you either grew up with it or you grow into it. We want to save that environment because if it goes away it’s never coming back,” said Chip Combs, an on-air disc jockey at the station.

WELD faces a debt load that needs eliminated which is part of the reason for the auction. People in the area and the employees there worry that an outside company or investor could purchase the station and replace all local content with syndicated programming; so they are trying to take matters into their own hands.

“We’re trying to build like a co-op of hundreds of investors if need be to come up with a couple of grand a piece so we can retire the debt, hit the ground running, continue to do business as we have, and make the improvements that need to be made,” said Combs.

The station’s building, equipment, and land will be auctioned first and then its FCC rights will be auctioned separately. A potential co-op would be similar to the one that owns the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League, the team is owned by the citizens of Green Bay through a stock-held outfit.

“It’s going to be, I’m afraid, a large number. So everything is on the table, anyway, we want to get this thing. If somebody local wants to buy the whole shooting match or half a dozen of the more affluent people want to own it, we don’t care as long as it stays here under local control,” said Combs.

WELD is the flagship for a trio of local stations and has been broadcasting to Grant, Hardy, and Pendleton Counties as well as parts of Mineral and Hampshire Counties since the 1950s.

“The world’s a different landscape than it was just a decade ago with regard to terrestrial radio and whatnot but we’re in a little different spot. We are a little piece of heaven that people don’t want to let go of and we want to help them keep a hold of it,” said Combs.

For many people in the area, WELD has been a part of their entire lives.

“It’s basically part of the heritage of Moorefield and Hardy County and the surrounding areas. With a lot of the phone calls I receive a lot of the older generation says they’ve listened to it since they were kids and they’d like to have their grandkids and other generations continue to listen to it,” said Ariel Ayers, the receptionist at WELD.

The local radio station has been especially important to the elderly population around the area.

“I had an 85-year-old lady from Franklin call me the other day saying that she was half blind and didn’t have a car and that listening to the radio every day keeps her going and helps her continue on with her life,” said WELD General Manager Floyd Shepard.

For those who have listed to the station for so many years the idea of losing it is devastating.

“They don’t want to see this place go. They don’t want to see the local content that we do stop and the things that we do in the community,” said Shepard.

The station offers unique local content like obituary notices, morning hymns, local news, and pet corner (where people share lost and found pets as well as pets for sale) which could all be lost.

“No local ball games, no local events like the tri-county fair and all the things we attend the remotes for businesses. There’s a lot that we do outside the studio that I’m guessing would be no more,” said Combs.

While the auction price is unknown the station has already gotten a number of financial pledges from people in the area.

“I’m hoping that we can get a good many locals to help keep it locally that way we can continue on with this tradition of the radio station,” said Ayers.

Anyone who wants to contribute to help purchase the station can call WELD at 304-538-6062 or email them at weld@hardynet.com.