County’s newest radio station hits airwaves today|[7/23/05]

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 25, 2005

Lina Jones remembers when her husband, Mark, tried to coax her into the radio business. He said she could make more in a week in radio than a month in education.

“And he was right,” she said, laughing at the memory.

Though her husband had been in the radio business for over 25 years, Lina is now the owner of two radio stations – one in Vicksburg and one in Alamosa, Colo.

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The Vicksburg station, WVBG 105.5 FM, was to begin broadcasting this morning at 8.

Lina Jones bought her two stations in November during an online Federal Communications Commission auction from Washington, D.C. During the same auction, her husband bought one in Aberdeen, S.D.

When Lina Jones placed the winning bids on her radio stations, she knew she was moving home to Mississippi.

Jones, who is from Lumberton, and her husband, from Amory, met as children at the Mississippi School for the Blind in Jackson.

Before moving to Vicksburg, the Joneses lived in Alexandria, La., where Mark Jones owned a radio station for 14 years. All told, he has owned eight.

Because they have a 16-month-old daughter, Lendsy, Lina Jones said she would have done “almost anything” to return to Mississippi.

“I’ve known Mark since he was 6 years old, and he has always been around radio,” Jones said. “We listen to the radio during meals and at night when I’m trying to sleep.”

Though the couple now owns stations around the country, they are focusing on WVBG.

“This is the one we were most interested in, so she bought this frequency,” Mark Jones said.

The Joneses are serious about their new assets. Lina Jones bought the Vicksburg frequency alone for $311,000, which Mark called a “significant investment.”

FCC auctions are open Mondays through Fridays during regular business hours, according to the FCC Auction Web site. The auctions usually open with two long bidding periods on the first day. The commission increases the number of bidding rounds, but rounds get shorter as the auction progresses.

With their aides and drivers’ help, the Joneses have pounded the Vicksburg pavement for several weeks selling advertising.

“The hardest part for me is cold calls,” said Lina Jones, who has a small amount of sight in her right eye but none in her left. “It can be very intimidating.”

Jones said she is confident that lasting business relationships will grow once the station becomes known in the community.

“Everybody’s been extremely friendly and made us feel welcome,” Jones said. “We are really focusing on locally owned and operated businesses. We intend to give local businesses our business.”

The Joneses had a large task building the station, according to FCC regulations as well as making it accessible for the visually impaired. Mark Jones worked with engineers to develop a keyboard that shows what the main computer displays on its screen in Braille. Jones also uses JAWS, a speech technology program that can output to Braille displays and will “read” to the user what is on a computer screen.

“It’s challenging because these programs aren’t designed to work with JAWS and Braille,” Lina Jones said.

Jones said her husband, who has been blind since birth, is not hindered by the challenge.

“He never thinks about it,” Jones said. “He just has to find a different way to do things.”

WVBG’s studio is in the Joneses’ basement and went on the air this morning around 8 a.m. It plays a mix of 1960s and 1970s music and will also broadcast Mississippi State University sports and national news from ABC. Mark Jones and the Joneses’ aides write and produce all of the shows.