Tom Treadway: Up to Eleven
BY Jelli ON January 13, 2015 IN Up to Eleven
Today, the Jelli team spotlights Engineer Tom Treadway in our first 2015 installment of “Up to Eleven.”
Tom Treadway has spent more than 40 years working as an engineer and keeps operations running smoothly at the following 10 stations: WOJG, WKWX, WADI, WOWL, WSKK, WKZU, WFMH, WSIB, WBIP and WRMG. He also maintains four low power TV stations owned by Unity Broadcasting. The radio and TV stations are located in the Tri-State area comprised of Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama.
We hope you enjoy January’s “Up to Eleven” feature and warmly welcome your comments!
Happy New Year!
The Jelli Team
Jelli: What led you to a career in radio?
Treadway: A Lincoln Town Car. I was working for the Department Of Energy in California and riding my motorcycle to work one day when a little old lady ran over me with her Lincoln Town Car. After the accident, I could no longer climb towers and had to find a new line of work.
I was in Los Angeles for 15 years and the San Francisco Bay Area for another 10 and got my first job in telecom in 1970. We were providing voice, video and data services for the DOD, NASA and Fortune 500 companies that included installing and maintaining fiber, digital microwave, telephone systems (PBX) and satellite uplinks. When all of that started to dry up in the Nineties I went to work for the Department of Energy from 1994-1999 and that’s when my career in telecom was ended by a little old lady in a Lincoln Town Car.
I ended up moving to Guys, Tennessee and was standing in line at the hardware store one day and overheard someone saying he needed help moving his radio studio. I got the job and launched my new career as a freelance engineer.
Jelli: How would you describe the radio landscape in your market?
Treadway: It’s pretty tough. The radio stations are barely getting by—no one is doing well in this market. The AM stations are doing pretty terrible and on the ropes. The FMs are doing a little bit better because they have a few more advertising dollars rolling in. A lot of the money made by FM stations are through sponsorships of live remotes at high school athletic events. Local car dealerships and other local businesses are also helping to keep the radio stations here going through sponsorships. The Gospel stations hold fund raisers and rely on donations from viewers.
Jelli: Are you wearing more “hats” than you have in the past?
Treadway: Definitely. I maintain the radio station’s computer networks, automation, studio equipment, STLs (studio transmitter links), Transmitter and satellite down links. I hold a GROL and I’m also a journeyman electrician as well as being certified to work on HVAC. Along with keeping the stand-by generator running I have also been asked to fix the station’s toilet and kill rattlesnakes around the transmitter building.
Jelli: What is your favorite part of the job?
Treadway: My favorite part of the job is coming up with innovative solutions for unique problems. Circuit work—odd gizmos. Integrating new stuff and keeping old equipment functional.
Jelli: What is the most challenging part of the job?
Treadway: The most challenging part of the job is keeping old equipment functional. Money is tight so everything I do needs to be done in the most cost effective way possible.
Jelli: What are you doing social media-wise?
Treadway: I need to step things up on the social media front. Given I work independently as an engineer I need to create a Facebook page for my business. I also need to hire somebody to do some work on my website!
Jelli: What makes your station “unique?”
Treadway: Given I work in a small market, all of the radio stations in or around Bolivar, Tennessee are locally owned by an individual or a couple. Most of them only have one to two sales people and typically the station manager is also the program director and receptionist. These are all little “Mom and Pop” businesses. There are no corporate people to deal with and none of the stations have full-time on-air talent. The deejays all work part-time.
Jelli: Why do you think terrestrial radio stations should invest in technology… like programmatic?
Treadway: I think programmatic would be a good revenue opportunity for smaller radio stations—especially for those stations that do not use a satellite feed. Here, the small AM stations are still playing oldies off of a hard drive. There is no national advertising. Programmatic could be a game changer for radio stations in smaller markets like Bolivar.
Jelli: What advice would you give to people new to the business?
Treadway: The advice I would give to people looking to get into the business is to learn about electronics. I run into a lot of young people that want to sit at a computer and hit buttons but don’t know what’s under the hood. Us old guys are dying out and there are no young people to fill in!
Jelli: What was your favorite radio station to listen to when you were a kid?
Treadway: Oldies rock… I can’t remember the station call letter but I was living in Los Angeles.
Jelli: Bonus question (#11): For someone vacationing in your market, what one thing would you say they “must see?”
Treadway: I would say the places you “must see” if you’re in Western Tennessee is Graceland which is located in Memphis about an hour away. If you want to see a sight closer to Bolivar you should check out the Shiloh National Battlefield. The battlefield is located at the bend of the Tennessee River and is a historical Civil War site.