WLSM under new ownership

By Gwen Sisson

One of the things the new owners of WLSM FM radio are learning, “radio is a lifestyle change — around the clock.”

After 20 years of being “the voice” of WLSM FM, Phil and Stacy Harrison know a little about that. The Harrison’s have now officially sold the station and retired to Oxford to follow the Ole Miss Rebels.

The Harrisons purchased the radio station in 1992.

Friday, December 6, 2013 as Phil and Stacy Harrison talk with Speedy Calvert and Scott Gregory for the Harrison’s last broadcast at WLSM.

Friday, December 6, 2013 as Phil and Stacy Harrison talk with Speedy Calvert and Scott Gregory for the Harrison’s last broadcast at WLSM.

“We knew there was potential in the market,” Phil Harrison said. “We took a 3,000 watt signal, upgraded to 25,000 watts on a tall tower and created a station that reached a 10-county area. We quickly realized that Louisville would provide a good business climate for our product.  We have been so fortunate to have the support of listeners and advertisers through the years. We also extend our thanks to all of our employees and staff who have helped create the station that so many enjoy today.”

Stacy Harrison said she loved writing and voicing commercials, while Phil enjoyed covering local high school sports. The one thing the Harrison’s said they will miss most is their involvement in the Winston County community.

“We have full confidence in the Hill’s ability to continue to provide Winston County and surrounding areas with a local voice in radio,” Phil Harrison said.

(Center and right) Will and Sarah Hill representing the WLSM at the 2014 Chamber banquet.

(Center and right) Will and Sarah Hill representing the WLSM at the 2014 Chamber banquet.

The new owners are Louisville Mayor Will Hill and his wife, Sarah. As small business owners, they are experiencing the lifestyle shift required in keeping programming on the air 24 hours a day. But they are loving every minute of it.

The Hill’s “planted a seed” with the Harrison’s back in 2007 when they first discussed selling the station. Hill had a passion for keeping the station locally-owned and wanted the opportunity to buy the station when they were ready. Several things happened over the years, but the sale finalized Nov. 15, 2013 (once the FCA re-opened following the government shutdown).

The Hill’s said it has been a big adjustment, but they are excited about the possibilities.

“We are so excited to keep the station local,” said Will Hill. “It is a jewel for Winston County. And I am a big believer that ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ and we can only make it better with time.”

Hill has a background in marketing and advertising, as well as a strong entrepreneurial spirit. In the past, he has owned a hotel and then the Bypass Restaurant. When he sold those businesses, he knew he wanted to be in business for himself again soon.

“The radio station always intrigued me,” Hill said. “And it was a good opportunity for Sarah and I, and I guess I am crazy enough to be a risk taker.”

When asked what his wife thought about this move, Hill said even as they signed the final paperwork, she probably didn’t realize she would be on the air.

“She has embraced it as our future,” Hill said. “She is doing a great job and is one the air doing local weather and news.”

Hill said they are going to keep the “good things going,” such as the popular morning show and the “switch and swap.”

The music format may change in the future and according to Hill, they are going to expand their local news and sports coverage to encompass the 10-county area.

“We have a large area of listenership and we want to make it a more regional station,” Hill said. “In addition to Winston County, we want to be Choctaw and Noxubee County’s choice for radio news, sports and announcements.”

Hill said they want to broaden their local sports programming to include pre-game as well as a Saturday morning sports shows.

“We want kids who stand out on Friday nights to hear their name on the radio Saturday morning,” Hill said.

And be waiting for a name change in the near future. The only comment Hill would make is “stay tuned.”