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Radio Interview

 

Gary Walsh

PD/Mornings 

KPEZ

Austin

 

To contact Gary click here
 

 

Gary's Career Capsule
Started in 1976 doing a late Saturday night show with the youth pastor from my church.  He bought time on the local rock station from about 10pm Saturday to about 3am Sunday. We played what passed for Christian rock at the time and encouraged people who were ‘seeking’ to call in.  The station we bought time from called and asked me to man an overnight shift and away I went.  Once I got to college I used radio as a good way to pay bills and before you know it the virus was in my blood and I couldn’t get it out.  I’ve worked every format I’m aware of, held just about every job one can hold in a radio station and still love coming in and trying to find new ways to do it everyday.

 

1. How has The River evolved over the last few years?

The challenge for every radio station is to become a part of the fabric of their community.  Austin is a wonderful and very different community.  The official city slogan is “Keep Austin Weird’, it’s not just a cute thing to put on t-shirts…it’s an actual way of life.  We are still testing the waters and trying to determine the absolute best way for us to impact Austin families.  We tried the ‘acceptable’ way of doing Christian radio to a fairly tepid response.  We have been charged with making an impact, not becoming wallpaper.  So, we are trying new things.  We are playing some familiar country records that clearly support and encourage the lifestyle, we are playing some current mainstream AC hits that fit within our ‘family friendly’ promise.  Early response has been interesting.  Still too early to make any ratings conclusions but early signs are good.  Our promotional efforts target city events and charitable runs, bikes and walks.  The station targets Austin families, regardless of their spiritual leanings. 

 

2. Has The River made any changes due to economic situation, been affected in any way?

Our company, Clear Channel, has been making changes for some time with the economy in mind.  The recent sale of the company afforded us the opportunity to re-engineer our systems and streamline our efforts.  (I knew that ‘Corporate-Speak’ class would pay off someday)  From the beginning, being the only CCM station in the Clear Channel empire, we have made every attempt to keep costs low and revenues high.  That means our full time staff of 3 people and our part time staff of one person has been working pretty hard and with great efficiency out of pure necessity for some time now. 

 

3. How is Austin a unique Christian market?

Local pastors tell me Austin has the lowest saturation level of church membership of any major American city.  A clear majority of the population does not attend church.  That is a great challenge.  That means we can’t just put the latest praise song on the air and count on church folk to fill out our listenership.  Austin prides itself on being diverse and accepting of any and all lifestyles and belief systems.  The Christian message that begins by denigrating other belief systems has a very negative effect here.  The Christian message that focuses on acceptance and the common desire for fulfillment makes a difference.  Our challenge is to present that message in a relevant and interesting way.

 

4. What criteria do you require for a song to be played on your station?

Does it support the lifestyle?  Does it further the message of acceptance and fulfillment?  Is it something an Austinite driving through traffic would turn up, or turn off?  People in the ‘Live Music Capitol of the World’ are pretty picky about what they like and don’t like.  It better be real, or they turn away.

 

5. What kind of promotions work best for The River?

Promotions that impact Austin families.  Promotions that allow Austin families to directly impact people in Austin who are also in need.  Promotions that include physical activity that benefits those in need in Austin.  Again, it better be real.  Austin does not respond to fluff or hype.

 

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

There are two clear styles of Christian radio.  Ministry oriented and lifestyle oriented.  Our radio station is expected to garner audience, increase ratings and revenue and help our cluster grow.  That means we have to compete favorably with the mainstream AC, Hot AC, CHR and Country stations.  Simply put, our approach is going to be different from a ministry-owned, listener supported station.  Our style of radio is in the minority in this format, so labels tend to skew their releases and promotions toward the needs of the many. 

 

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

Becoming inwardly focused. The people we need to touch are those who don’t speak our language, don’t know our jokes and don’t really care to.  It is incumbent on us to go to them and present a reasoned, relevant and interesting case for our lifestyle and our choices.  That tends to make our most ardent supporters very uncomfortable.  Something, I believe, Jesus himself had to deal with.

 

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

First, to be a personality.  A long word meaning, be a person.  You have good points, bad points, interesting points, boring points, happy points, sad points, etc.  Most of us try to be ‘Johnny Positive’, the person who never makes a mistake, never does anything wrong and is always the very picture of righteous.  Have fun, be real and engage the target.

 

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

Got me.  There are an awful lot of smart people doing great radio in markets all over the country.  I applaud you all.

 

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

My vision and my prayer is that we can create a format that reaches beyond the ‘faithful’ and is relevant to the needy.  We have the most positive, sought after message the world has ever known.  Now if we can just figure out how to get us out of the way.  We do that and I see Christian radio expanding in every market.  We don’t and I see Christian radio soothing the faithful and being a curiosity to the rest.

 

 

 

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