The Tower of Power

This week I ran into a long-time broadcaster I called on back in my affiliate relations days. We chatted for a few minutes and the subject of towers came up (I have no idea). He mentioned that he had tried to sell his AM tower but got no takers. Then he tried to give it away. Nope. Now he’s paying someone to take it down and haul it off. As far as I know, that is nothing unusual. But it struck me as somehow… foreboding?

A radio station tower is …iconic. Usually the tallest structure in small towns throughout America. You didn’t need much of a studio but you had to have that transmitter and a tower. The bigger the better.

Every radio guy I know has at least one tower story.

Like the DJ who pulled his UHaul truck into the parking lot of the station where he was to start working the next day. In the downpour, he didn’t realize he’d snagged the truck’s trailer hitch on a guy wire and pulled the tower down. And he didn’t get fired.

Or a story about the insane guys who did tower maintenance, climbing four or five-hundred feet to paint or change a bulb.

[Momentary aside: If someone drops a wrench from 400 feet above you, is it better to remain still or to run? Discuss]

What once took studios filled with control boards and tape decks and cart machines… can now be done with a couple of laptops.

The equation once was:

Good programming (content) + big transmitter + big tower + good frequency = big audience

Now it’s:

Good programming (content) + big transmitter + big tower + good frequency = big audience

I’m sorry I never interviewed one of those tower guys.

One thought on “The Tower of Power

  1. From what I recall of my old cable tower climbing days… the brain says run, but you’re so caught in the “oh shit” moment that you’re almost frozen. Usually followed by peeing your pants and a either a sigh of relief or trip to the hospital, depending on karma. The smarter kids try not to stand under the tower.

    Many years ago we were installing a two-way radio antenna about 250 feet up when it started coming loose from the sling as it was being hauled up. The guy I was working with disconnected his harness, hugged the corner leg of the tower and began sliding down like it was a fire pole. He saved the antenna, but it was in this moment I knew it was time to find a new job.

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