The fifth time was the charm for WINW Joy 1520 AM Radio.
Well, not really. On Feb. 23, the station, which features black-gospel music, was rendered silent after copper thieves damaged its transmitter located in Plain Township.
It marked the fifth time that burglars hit the transmitters, said station owner/manager Curtis A. Perry III.
Here’s where it gets complicated. Perry, entered a $300,000 purchase agreement for Joy 1520 in 2001 under a “time-brokerage” agreement, which is similar to a land contract. He completed payment for the station in 2008, but still is awaiting transfer of the license from its former owner.
Perry said after the burglary, an anonymous letter was sent to the Federal Communications Commission, claiming the station had been off the air for a year without notifying the agency “” a violation of FCC law and cause for license cancellation.
The FCC sent Perry a letter requesting more information, but the letter was sent to an outdated address. By the time the FCC located the correct address and re-sent the letter, the agency canceled WINW’s license March 3, based on the fact Perry had not responded to the inquiry within 30 days.
Perry has since requested reinstatement with hopes of being back on the air before summer’s end.
“It’s more than frustrating,” he said. “I miss the (listeners). It was my way of communicating. It was a voice in the community for the church. Like most black-owned radio and TV stations, it’s our vehicle to communicate with one another. Back in the day, we’d call it the “˜drumbeat.’
“I’ve had a lot of people call me. I didn’t realize they missed the water until the well ran dry.”
“I think the community is finding that they miss the station more than they thought they would,” said Vince Watts, executive director and CEO of the Greater Stark County Urban League. “Weekly, I have been told that the station was “˜our way’ of communicating.”
Watts said Joy 1520 served as a conduit for church events, personal communications, such as wedding announcements, and gave business access to the inner city and minority communities.
“Events across the community, especially the religious community, have experienced a decline in attendance because the organizer does not have access to the station,” he said.
In addition to music, WINW also provided roundtable discussions for local issues. The station, Watts said, provided a pipeline of communication mainly to the black, inner city populations of Stark County.
“Specifically during elections and times of major concern, such as the closing of Hartford Elementary School, the station provided a sounding board for the community in general,” he said.
“Politicians could talk directly to a segment of the community that was not available to them otherwise, not through the newspaper, not on Twitter or Facebook, and not through other radio stations. WINW had its own listening audience that misses it greatly. The larger community may not appreciate that impact or influence, but if they tap into it, they would see the potential of a station like WINW in a market like Stark County.”
TO THE RESCUE
It’s been a personal and professional struggle for Perry, who hasn’t had an income since February.
It’s also been a spiritual journey, he said.
“I’m a very hopeful person,” he said. “This has taught me that regardless of what trials and situations we go through, when one door closes, God opens another.”
A tearful Perry said he learned how much people value WINW during its anniversary celebration in 2008, when the Rev. William Wallace Luke led a spontaneous $7,000 fund drive, which enabled him to pay off the balance.
“This station is really the community’s; I’m just the vehicle to help steer it,” he said. “The people came to my rescue.”
Perry noted that no other radio station in the region has an all black-gospel music format. Just one local station has a Sunday-morning show.
Perry said WINW not only is his business, but it is also a ministry.
“I’m not so much a preacher, but my ministry is to give gospel music … to the community,” he said. “I’d go so far as to say that when you don’t have gospel on the air, it impacts people. It keeps you going. It keeps you at peace. I think a lot of people miss it.