Carl McGary and his wife Cam never expected that Carl would be involved in starting a local radio station when they moved to Sun City Center 14 years ago.
Originally from Indiana and Pennsylvania, the couple traveled the country for five years in their motor home before choosing to move to Sun City Center.
Carl, a former educator, had no experience in public communications but the first friend he made in Sun City Center, John Bowker, had spent a lifetime in broadcasting.
From time to time, Bowker would mention his vision of starting a broadcast station for the local retirement community.
“I’ve started a radio station in every town I’ve lived in,” Bowker said. It became a hobby only after he had spent 38 years working in broadcast technology and on weekends as a fill-in on-air host for stations near Trenton, New Jersey.
“The Sun City Center station would be a low-power station. Just 100 watts. Think of it like a light bulb in your house,” McGary said in an interview Aug. 20 while manning a table in the Atrium building of the Sun City Center Community Association complex along with John Price and Sam Sudman handing out materials related to the station to interested residents. “We want to get resident opinion on this, whether good or bad,” he said.
Price is on the committee researching the station and will be on the committee to run it if it becomes reality, while Sudman is on the Community Association board of directors and acts as liaison between the board and the radio group.
McGary is chairman of the group and Bowker the vice chair.
“Preliminary plans call for a low-power station that would only transmit between U.S. 301 and Interstate 75, with its north-south boundaries the same distance because radio waves go in a circle,” McGary said.
To give residents an idea of how that range compares to stations they listen to now, McGary said he recently contacted a station on a mountaintop in Asheville, N.C. that broadcasts 36,000 watts and reaches seven states.
“The FCC is granting some licenses for small community stations and a private donor who wants to remain anonymous is giving the money to start up,” McGary said.
Costs for start-up will run between $2,500 and $5,000, he said.
The station would not solicit advertising. Instead, it would be paid for by private donors and individual and business sponsors, much like National Public Broadcasting.
“We would operate with an all volunteer staff,” he added.
Operating officers, a station manager, a director of programming and a director of engineering, on-air hosts, reporters, development persons, a visiting dignitary interviewer, and recordkeeping people and a receptionist will be needed; all unpaid.
Resident input is needed now to determine what programming they would like to hear, including music, news, sports, community and club happenings, and homeowner’s association events.
The men manning the table and handing out flyers asked residents if they own an FM radio, or if they would buy one if the station gave them hyper-local news.
Most of the response so far has been positive, they said.
Although the Sun City Center Community Association would receive the license from the FCC, Kings Point news would also be covered, although Kings Pointers would not have control over programming.
Once in operation, a Community Broadcasting Authority would be created, which would govern what is broadcast and when.
In order to comply with FCC regulations to be licensed, the station would have to have at least eight hours of continuous broadcasting daily, but eventual plans are for being on the air 24/7.
“A lot is now almost robotic, with automatic and digital news feeds available from the Internet,” McGary explained. “But the best thing about the station would be its ability to warn residents of any danger, such as a hurricane. We also would like to cover town hall meetings and other events people need to hear but can’t attend.”
McGary and his group want the residents to make their opinions known soon because the FCC needs to know by the middle of October or they will lose their chance to obtain the license.
Interested persons may email McGary at email@example.com.