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Radio Interview

                                     

Jerry Williams

Program Director

WVFJ  J93.3

Atlanta

 

 

Jerrys' Career Capsule

I started in mainstream AC at WCPI in Wheeling, WV (now country WOVK).  The station was owned by Columbia Pictures, it was pretty cool cashing my paycheck every week with ďColumbia PicturesĒ on it.  During my time there I started a Christian rock show that aired on Sunday evenings. I went to Louisville, KY in 1983 to attend Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and joined the staff at WXLN/WFIA.  During that time I did an air shift and call out research for mainstream AC WRKA.  When I left in 1988 I was the APD and afternoon drive host for WXLN, and PD for WFIA. I left Kentucky to do mornings at WXLN on Long Island, NY.  That was my longest tenure.  I left in 1995 as PD and morning man.  I also did a short stint on Long Island at perennial #1 mainstream AC WALK. I returned to Louisville in 1995 as PD and morning man for WJIE.  That lasted for a little over a year.  In September of 1996 I went cross town to mainstream AC WVEZ to do mornings.  When Jacor bought the station a few months later I moved to Promotions Director for WVEZ and the 70s & 80s station WSFR. In March of 1997 I accepted the PD and afternoon drive positions at WCBW in St. Louis.  That lasted until Jacor bought that station in September of 1997.  A few of us from the staff of WCBW formed a non-profit corporation and worked to put a Christian outlet back on the air in St. Louis. In September of 1998 I accepted the PD and morning drive positions at WVFJ in Atlanta, moving out of mornings in January of 2003.

 

1. How is the Atlanta Christian Radio market different today from one year ago?

Not significantly.  Itís still one of the most competitive markets in the country.  Weíve had just a ton of rim shot stations move in during the past two or three years so the pie keeps getting cut into more and more pieces.  With the exception of one of the CHR stations no one has seen their 12+ ratings go up or down more than a point in a year.  One of the major mainstream stations, Star 94, went through a major staff shake up at the end of 2002 and we were able to pick up a couple of tremendously talented guys in our Afternoon drive host Kevin Steele and Production Director Jack Cone.  Heritage AC Peach dropped that name in favor of Lite. 

 

2. What is the most fulfilling aspect to you personally about Christian radio?

Being used by God.  Iíve been doing this for 24 years and it still amazes me how the simplest things, when done in the context of service to God, can make the most profound impact on the lives of listeners.

 

3.Tell us about your decision to air John Tesh on WVFJ?

Itís a huge point of differentiation for us, from our in format competitor and the rest of the market.  And itís an opportunity to gain some ground in a strategic daypart.  Tesh is a known commodity with huge appeal.  Combine that with the chance to program our music and it was a no-brainer.

 

4. What is the criteria that determines if a song receives airplay on your station?

We have two considerations, which is I think what really sets us apart from mainstream radio.  The first is there must be a discernable, defensible message.  The second is that a record must fit in with the overall sound of the station.  If a record meets both of those criteria it still has to have the potential to be a bigger record than anything else I have on the air at the time, and there has to be an open slot on my playlist.  Those slots are getting fewer and farther between, so a record really has to be a slam dunk before it gets on the air.

 

5. What kind of promotions work best for your station?

Those that touch an emotional chord with the listener.  Every year we do a Valentines promotion with a local childrenís home, inviting listeners to make valentines for the kids.  We literally get hundreds of thousands of valentines every year.  We did a ďHome for the HolidaysĒ promotion for Christmas 2003 where we flew a listenerís family into Atlanta for the holidays, big dinner, new dining room suite, that kind of stuff.  What made that contest a success was that we tied into the emotions of family and tradition for the holidays.  Anyone can give stuff away, but if you can hook the listenerís emotion then you got Ďem.

 

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

Sign fewer artists, release fewer records.  Work with us to help develop artist awareness beyond their latest single.  This is still very much a song driven format, not an artist driven format.  We can help swing that if radio and records can work together to keep artists visible even when they donít have a current single.

 

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

Anonymity and under capitalization.  Weíre still, for the most part, not committing the resources necessary to cut through the clutter.  There are plenty of Christian stations that are doing a lot of things right, that sound great, but not enough people in their markets are even aware that there is a Christian station in the market.

 

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

Doing something today that gets the listener to tune in again tomorrow.

 

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

I think true innovation is rare and largely over rated.  Apple is one of the most innovative companies in the world but their market share is practically insignificant.  I think there are quite a few Christian stations that sound great, but Iím not aware of any that are truly innovators.

 

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

You know 10 or 12 years ago Christian radio was gonna be the next Country radio, huge growth, the major players adding Christian stations.  It still hasnít happened.  I donít think the mainstream guys, for the most part, understand what really is different about Christian radio.  Itís more than the music.  And on the Christian side no one has stepped up with a commitment of resources significant enough to make a difference that gets noticed.  Yeah, there are a couple of success stories, and a couple of companies are spending some money on TV in a few markets, but it hasnít been enough to make us much more than a specialty format on a national level.  So 5 years from now weíll be pretty much where we are right now, or weíll all be working for K-LOVE and Salem, but what do I know?

        

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