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Radio Interview

                                     

Don Hughes

President/CEO

Great Plains Radio/KJIL

Meade, KS

 

 

Don's Career Capsule
First of all I want to express my thanks to the many people in the industry that came to the aid of my family when our house burned in January. Our children are big Christian music fans. Through my years of radio and concert promotion they had a good collection of autographed pictures, t-shirts and CD's.  The industry responded and replaced these things and more.  Thank you.  It encouraged them that life would return to normal.  Having your house burn presents an overwhelming amount of work and we have been delinquent in sending out thank you notes.

I began working in broadcasting in 1969 and came to know Jesus as my Savior in 1973.  I immediately wanted to use broadcasting to communicate this Good News to others.  However, the non-Christian broadcasters I worked for did not share this zeal and I moved into Christian broadcasting in 1976.  I was sitting behind the control board and put WMHK on the air.  Since then I have been involved in putting six more full power stations on the air.  We now have five full power stations with Great Plains Christian Radio and three construction permits as well as 38 translators. Our flagship station KJIL has been named station of the year by GMA, NAB, Focus on the Family and the Kansas Association of Broadcasters.

Along with my work in radio I began promoting Christian concerts.  I did this for fifteen years before the radio stations I worked for incorporated this as part of the ministry.  Basically, I have done the promotion and my wife has lined up volunteers and did the catering for thirty years.  Artists probably remember my wife, Polly's, cooking and hospitality more than they remember my promotion.  My wife Polly and I have six children and our first grandchild was born this year. Three of our sons have a contemporary Christian group called, Gabriel Peter, http://www.gabrielpeter.com

 

1. Personally how do you keep the ministry in the “business”? 

I am at a point in my life when there is more behind me in length of days than there is in front of me.  Just a couple of days ago I was reading in Psalm 71 and came across these two verses of scripture.  This will be my prayer for the rest of my life.  "O God, You have taught me from my youth; and to this day I declare Your wondrous works.  Now also when I am old and gray headed, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come."

I have another slogan that keeps me looking to the Lord, "You have not done anything until you have finished well.  Help me Lord to accomplish this!"

 

2. Overall, how is Christian radio different today, from 5 years ago?

People have more listening options from a greater number of stations, internet, I-pods, etc.  We need to keep up with changing technology.  We need to understand our changing society in order to communicate to heart felt needs from a Biblical perspective.

 

3. What do you think are the main characteristics of a Christian radio GM?

Someone who is willing to serve the Lord, their staff and the listeners. 

 

4. What ways or methods do you think work best to keep your staff motivated?

Each staff member needs to feel they have some control to do their job and freedom to exercise their abilities. I have a wonderful staff and I feel that the Holy Spirit can work through them as well or better than He can work through me.

 

5. What kind of promotions work best for Christian radio?

I hear so many wonderful ideas from other broadcasters.  There is really a lot of ministry that takes place through the various promotional activities of Christian broadcasters. The promotion needs to be simple and easily understood because listeners are probably not paying as much attention to the details as we think they are.  Number one is to keep something going and keep the listeners involved.  Number two is to have a variety of activities because not everyone is interested in the same thing.  Number three is to have promotions that capture names and addresses for your mailing list to help with fundraising.

We realized the needs of the public school system in addressing various issues.  We have provided assembly programs in the schools.  Last year we did about thirty school assembly programs with no outcry of "separation of church and state."  We understand the restrictions and the schools appreciate what we are doing.  It has been effective ministry and promotion.  Sportsworld Ministries has been very helpful in this area of ministry.

 

6. How do you think Christian Record labels can better serve Christian radio?

Overall they are doing a good job in serving Christian radio.  However, I think a time of reexamination by the entire Christian music industry would be a good idea.  In reality the only new big artist or group in the Twenty-First Century has been Casting Crowns.  Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Newsboys, Point of Grace, Mercy Me, etc are not as big as they once were.  Are we missing the mark in development of new talent?  I think new talent is being overlooked.  Are we trying to play it so safe in signing a new artist today that we are damaging where we need to be five years from now?  I think a contributing factor is the "Becky" mentality and auditorium testing.  I feel that these programming and research tools are not working to benefit the industry over the long haul.

 

7. In your opinion what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio today?

The variety of listening choices could decrease the amount of money we can place in truly having an effective ministry.  As a result we will have many ineffective choices.

 

8. What do you believe is the primary role of the Christian radio air personality?

We want our announcers to relate to people and be effective communicators and not just a mechanical voice between songs.  It is a difficult balance in using your skills effectively and learning to just keep the music rolling.  Balance is the key.  Not many can do it well.  I am more than a little bias, but I think most of the announcers that have reached that balance work for us.  We have a great staff that I appreciate greatly.

I was talking to a group of listeners touring our station recently.  A couple of the ladies had recently moved to our area from much larger markets with stations that are considered to be the best.  They commented that they did not have anything like this where they came from.  I was a little puzzled and mentioned stations there.  The ladies stated that they do a good job, but KJIL is like family.

 

9. What (if any) Christian radio stations do you consider as innovators today? 

My answer is guided by the way the question is asked.  I could name many stations that do a very good job and have a great air sound; however there has been a movement toward everyone sounding the same, so I cannot label them as an innovator.

 

10. Where do you see Christian radio in 5 years?

My fear is that the local broadcaster will be overcome by the big national networks.  The big national networks have a good sound and play the music, but it is just not the same as a local ministry that is involved with the area. Local ministries are on the edge financially and the big national network with very little or no local staff will pull ten to fifteen percent of the income of the local broadcaster and make it difficult to maintain the local ministry.  I don't feel it is good for local ministry and not good for the Christian music industry as a whole.

I know some of the things I have said here that I will be considered to be "old school." Our house burned in January and we have been working on rebuilding.  We have gone into some major retail chains to buy rooms of furniture, a houseful of appliances, or lighting.  We have encountered sales people that do not know their own products and know very little about customer service.  As a result the store lost a big sale from us.  I am old fashioned about down-home personal service and think that applies to effective Christian radio ministry as well.

I think we can see in our presidential election that people are searching for a voice to lead them.  It may not even be leadership into what is best.  It is searching for a rallying point.  Your station can be that compass providing direction.  However, you will not have that kind of leadership by playing it safe in a predictable sameness in your format.  Matthew 9:36... But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them like sheep having no shepherd.  Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few, therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."

 

 

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