By MITCH TRAPHAGEN
Like many thousands of others, Peter Swartz and his wife Janet came to visit Sun City Center in search of a retirement paradise. They almost immediately fell in love with the community, deciding to buy a home within two hours, but Peter also saw an opportunity among the palm trees and the manicured lawns.
Peter Swartz is a radio man. And soon Peter’s retirement will be put on hold and WSCQ-FM radio should be broadcasting live from Sun City Center.
“We are ready to go on the air now,” Swartz said. “I could basically just push a couple of buttons.”
WSCQ is already licensed by the Federal Communications Commission as a Low Power FM station. The license was granted Feb. 6, and Community Radio of Sun City Center Inc. was born with the intention of serving Sun City Center and Kings Point, and some news from the surrounding communities as well. Swartz is currently assigned 100.1 MHz on the dial, but that may change before the station goes on the air.
“I’m basically a newcomer here,” Swartz said. “We bought the house two or so years ago. When we first came here, I was transitioning from running a station and retiring. Being in radio, I saw an opportunity for something that would be really neat. There is a lot going on here, and having a community station seemed like it would be perfect.”
He is now coming off his third retirement after first selling his Christian broadcasting station to a national radio chain in 2000. He expected to retire then, just as he expected to retire upon moving to Sun City Center. But radio seems to be in his blood, and he hopes to provide a useful and entertaining service for the community.
“I don’t retire well,” he said with a laugh. By 2002, he was operating four stations before retiring yet again. And now he is back in the game once more.
“In the 30-plus years I’ve been in broadcasting, things have changed so much,” Swartz said. “The FCC does not allow just anyone to decide they’ll open up and run a station. And today there are filing windows they occasionally open for licenses.”
The last window closed last November. There is no word as to when the next window may open.
“I know what I want to do but don’t have it down completely yet,” he continued. “I knew Christian broadcasting, but this will be different, it’s a new venture for me. Radio is the same, but I’m working on a listenable mix that is informative and entertainment, with nice music from the ’50s to the ’90s.”
WSCQ won’t be a Christian station, but Swartz does hope to broadcast local church services on Sunday mornings.
“There was a time when nearly every broadcaster gave their air time over to churches on Sunday mornings,” he said. “Most don’t do that anymore, but we will. We’ll also play some gospel music during those times.”
Swartz is visually impaired, describing himself as almost blind, but that hasn’t slowed him down in the least.
“My idea is to find interesting people in the community to interview,” he said. “I’ve been doing interviews for years. We can do it as though it is just two people having a conversation that also happens to be going out over the radio. People seem to enjoy it.”
Sun City Center offers him a near infinite potential for interesting people and stories.
WSCQ is limited to a 100-foot antenna and 100 watts of power. The station will likely reach as far as Apollo Beach, into Riverview, Ruskin and Wimauma.
“Our main emphasis will be Sun City Center and Kings Point,” Swartz said. “It’s a noncommercial station. We can do fundraising, much like PBS raises funds for their operations. But we can’t do full-blown advertising.”
He does, however, hope to promote local businesses and clubs with interviews as a community service, no advertising involved. He is looking forward to doing remote broadcasts from the many community events.
“I want as many friendly neighbors as I can get,” Swartz said. “I want them to tell us about them, to put them on the air.”
He also hopes to attract young people, providing them with the benefit of the vast experience and knowledge of the retirees.
Although electronically he could begin broadcasting right now, he is still looking for suitable studio space, his needs for which are minimal.
“There is no sense in me going on the air until I get into some kind of alignment with people in the community,” he said.
“For the station to be what it needs to be, I’ll need the support of the community. I want to be careful. I don’t want to step on people’s toes, but I think this would be good for the community. I think once we’re out there, broadcasting and communicating, people will come around.”
He is also looking for some help, and Sun City Center could well be a very fertile ground for such a search. Although the station will be noncommercial, he is hoping to find some help in funding the operation. Thus far, Swartz has paid out of pocket for the equipment needed and for the Emergency Broadcast System.
“I would love to get some volunteer help,” Swartz said. “And also to get where people can make announcements and so on. I can take my computer and a little bag of stuff and I can broadcast from anywhere. I’m looking at the end of the month, it could be mid-April, but I could have been on the air three weeks ago with no problem. This isn’t my first radio station.”
Indeed it isn’t. It is his seventh station. In Sun City Center, Peter and Janet Swartz found a home, both on a broad residential boulevard and in his heart, fulfilling his love for radio. So much for retirement — he’s at WSCQ in Sun City Center.
For information, email Peter Swartz at WSCQFM@yahoo.com.