Locally-owned stations still on air 60 years later

Community

WATSEKA, Ill. (WCIA) — Family-owned radio stations are fewer and farther between. 

You can hear the local sounds every day from Watseka. 

Stacey Smith didn’t always envision herself as part of the family business, but today she’s running the radio stations as the general manager of WGFA-FM and WIBK-AM.  

Her dad, the late Dick Martin, started the stations with partners before buying them out. 

“My dad and, I believe, there was two other partners started the radio station,” explained Smith. “It was WGFA-AM, at the time. And then maybe six or eight months later, WGFA-FM got their license.” 

Fast forward 50-plus years, WGFA and WIBK have a new home. 

“WGFA-FM and WIBK-AM have been located northwest of Watseka underneath our towers since 1961 and the flooding has gotten worse out there,’ Smith said. “Anyway, it was probably 2018 was the last big flood that we had where it physically came underneath the building. It took our internet down.” 

Employees even had to be rescued from the building because it became a fire hazard. 

Today, they’re closer to clients, listeners and other local businesses.  

“We really enjoy being downtown, seeing the traffic, being close to our business partners,” said Smith. “We get a lot more foot traffic than we had before and once COVID settles down, that’ll be nice for our listeners that win prizes, for our customers and our advertisers.” 

It’s not just the physical location that’s changed over the last six decades. 

“As the future evolves, radio is still gonna have a place in there,” Smith explained. “There are so many studies that show radio advertising works, just as TV advertising and newspaper advertising. People see it and there’s a need for a local, regional radio station in the communities that you serve and that’s part of your license is to serve the communities and the listeners. And I think as technology evolves, radio will evolve with it.” 

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