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Radio Interview

 

 

Peter Vadala

Spokesman

WNSH Educational Foundation

Boston

 

     

To contact Peter click here

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter's Career Capsule
Peter helped get the first FM Christian music station in Massachusetts off the ground, WYCM.  As a member of the New England Preparatory School Youth Chorale, performed with Judy Collins in Boston Symphony Hall.  Before high school ended, I was a student of the WNSH internship program. As a college intern and staff member at Keymarket of Ohio (WSTV, WOMP-AM, and Froggy 103.3), reported the news, wrote commercial copy, and worked on the street team. I also started the WNSH Foundation and served as a Navteq traffic reporter, a WRKO producer, an assistant to rock DJ legend Dale Dorman at the former Oldies 103.3 Boston, and an intern-writer-producer at WBZ radio.  I served as a full-time anchor and reporter at WNTK in New Hampshire.

 

1. You’ve been very active in trying to bring a Christian Music station to Boston. How did this movement come about?

Ted, Massachusetts has been wanting a Christian music radio station for a very long time, and many have attempted to do what God's allowing us to do here.  Christian music radio is a concept that naturally draws excitement from people of faith when you mention it.  So a better question might be, how couldn't this movement come about?

On Pearl Harbor Day, 2004, I was blessed to guest-host a music program on our Salem station here in Boston, and at some point, I expressed a minor annoyance at there being no full-time music station.  The then-Salem Radio Boston producer David Capps suggested I start one.

In 2005, a fellow college student, Jana Schneider, and I begun a weekly 2-hour music broadcast on the 500-watt WNSH as a starting point for what we called the "Boston FM Project," a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing people together for a full-time uplifting and encouraging music choice.  One of Emerson College's DJs eventually took over as our talent.  USAi.net agreed to help us out with free Web hosting, and so many other community organizations just seemed to jump to our aid.  The enthusiasm was -- and is -- palpable.

May 20th, 2006 was our "Come Together" Conference.  All the powerful frequencies were and continue to be occupied, but none play contemporary Christian music. New York sees hundreds of thousands tuning into the Star (WAWZ) quarterly.  Everyone knows how popular The Fish 95.9 is in Los Angeles.  We see Christian music thriving in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Houston.  Everyone listens to uplifting and encouraging music in Atlanta.

Our alternative to finding a vacant frequency was to raise $100 million and buy out an existing FM station. As a college student, I thought to myself, surely, with the missions budgets of the church in America, there ought to be $80 million out there for this mission. That was not God's plan, though, and so Schneider and I resigned to put the project on the back burner for a while and wait on God.

In a matter of years, God blessed us in a couple of ways as a gentle, fatherly urging to stay the course. First, we have a business model that we didn't necessarily see back in even 2006.  Since 2006, uplifting music radio has grown, not just in listenership but professionally.  There used to be a mom-and-pop type of sour-grapes attitude that audience size doesn't matter, but today uplifting and encouraging music stations are better equipped to draw large audiences. Arbitron numbers agree that the audiences are definitely there in all the other top-10 markets.  The WNSH Foundation is very much indebted to all the stations that have come up with this model.  Sometimes we receive surprise blessings -- like our online Webcast.  God's been very good to us in that respect.

Another thing that's changed since 2006 is that WNSH got FCC approval to boost its signal to 30 thousand watts.  So now, the signal covers from the southern tip of Maine all the way down to the Back Bay of Boston, Cape Cod, even parts of the South Shore of Boston.  And this is just the beginning.

 

2. What is the current status of your project?

God has given us 30 thousand watts and an online Webstream for two hours a week every Sunday. The former is generously provided by WNSH-owner Keating Willcox, and the stream is given to us free of charge by some friends at ministry partner GSW Corporation.

We've only been on the air at 30 thousand watts for a couple months now, but the response among pastors has been nothing short of overwhelming, so much so that we're sponsoring a meeting at the Beverly Library Saturday, August 7th to get their input about how we can best serve them.  We're also going to have a performance by Boston artist Emily Hatcher Pratt, who has been another incredible blessing to the Foundation. We do have a big need for volunteers and donations, but we know God will provide, and when He does, we'll be ready to share His love with greater Boston.

When the resources are there, we're ready with WNSH to provide air-time virtually whenever we need it.  We're ready with New Englander Jonathan Monk and Dianna Kelly, a proven DJ morning team, which will save us the resources of having to play DJ-matchmaker.  USAi.net has been with us from the very beginning, volunteering their Web hosting services at no cost when we're ready to provide the design.  Plus, a Wakefield C.P.A. named David Feeley is guiding us with invaluable business counsel, also free of charge.  Not to mention, our Facebook page, WNSH.com 1570, seems to show that people really love TobyMac, Amy Grant, David Crowder Band, Kutless, Sanctus Real, Chris Tomlin, Casting Crowns, Third Day, Emily Hatcher Pratt, Britt Nicole, Bethany Dillon, Josh Wilson, Jimmy Needham, Mercyme, Jars of Clay, Mikeschair, and the others.

 

3. Do you believe the market will support you?

The other markets have shown us that women 25 to 54 want an uplifting and encouraging music choice.  It's just a matter of time before it happens here.  When our team first started our radio show, we got so many calls I was concerned that there might be copycat stations, but on second thought, that would be a delightful dilemma to have.

Right now, the area bookstores tell us that online Webcasts are a big way that Christian music fans get their music, but it's not meeting the need.  Also, movies like "Fireproof" and "Walk To Remember" have definitely primed their ears for more.  Massachusetts also knows the big uplifting and encouraging artists from national media appearances, like late night comedy shows.  I think the labels are definitely doing a good job in that respect.  You know that uplifting music is big when the astronauts are listening to the Newsboys in space. The biggest demand for uplifting music is in the Christian niche, for sure.

 

4. Why do you think Boston does not have a full time Christian music station?

I think Massachusetts is distinctly different from the rest of the nation, though I can't put my finger on how.  We need the love of God here just like everywhere else, and the WNSH Educational Foundation will share that love.  I think what's more important is that God is moving in a really powerful way here now.

 

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

First off, we call media outlets playing Christian music "radio stations," but I think even despite radio's legacy, we'd do ourselves a disservice by calling ourselves that -- a "radio station."  We call ourselves WNSH.com 1570 because we're not just a terrestrial radio station, though the station is an important part of our work.  Our goal is to become an integrated new media ministry.  Sure, we play the best music in town, but we're also a community networking resource.  We want to be there when people need prayer and don't know who else to turn.  We want to be available on someone's iPhone when they travel outside the coverage area.

We're not just providing intangible content over multiple platforms -- we're part of a continuous dialogue with our audience.  So I think that much more important than what kind of promotions work, be it a Relay for Life or an artist concert, is how consistently our message reciprocates the pulse we have on our audience over all of our content platforms.

While starting up a new Christian music radio station is a challenge, one advantage we have over the older stations is that our leadership is not restrained by the perhaps crippling idea that the terrestrial radio frequency must be at the center of everything we do.  In the old model, the programming director sets a theme and feel for the general tone of the station, and based on that, the promotions department and Web designer go about building their departments to match the radio signal's content. Sometimes that radio-centric model might be prudent, but in the Web age in Boston, I believe it's necessary to build a business plan focused on a central theme, which in our case is the Love of God.  Like a movie or an amusement park, that theme must be fully developed, not just in the traditional radio programming style sense, but with strong thematic visuals and interactive content capabilities in mind.

I think what makes promotions effective is how consistent and centralized the promotional message is across all media platforms that represent the ministry, more so than what promotional venues are used to convey that message.

 

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

Our listeners would love a label-sponsored concert to raise money for the WNSH Educational Foundation.

 

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

I think the biggest obstacle for Christian radio is radio.

Again, I'd say a radio-centric view rather than a centralized media message is an obstacle.  When you think of Disney, you don't think, "Magic Kingdom" or "Disney Channel" or "Radio Disney" or "The Palace Theater."  You think, "Mickey" or "Hannah Montana" or "The Jonas Brothers."  You don't associate Disney with  any one medium, because the media don't have any inherent meaning, and psychology 101 tells us that what people remember most is the meaning the words and images have rather than the words or images themselves.  In some form, all those personalities I mentioned span all of the media and venues mentioned.  (i.e. Mickey and Hannah and the Jonas Brothers are all at the Magic Kingdom, on the Disney Channel, and on Radio Disney.  The channel or venue is secondary to the content.)

When we are broadcasting uplifting music full-time, we don't want our audience to think of just "WNSH-AM 1570" or "WNSH.com."  We want the Web site to constantly refer people to the on-air signal, and vice versa, as efficiently as possible.  Hence, WNSH.com 1570.  But even WNSH.com 1570 is just a point of access to the artists, and the meaning -- God's love.

 

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

Expounding on my belief that radio is just one piece of the Christian media entity puzzle, the primary role of the uplifting and encouraging radio air personality, apart from loving his or her audience, is to follow the lead of the team that determines the ministry's centralized theme. A good piece of music generally includes a theme and variations, a chorus and verses. I'd say a Christian media entity, centralized around a common message, needs to function like a good piece of music.

If the theme of the station is "love your neighbor as yourself," a team, perhaps comprised of a program director, a Web designer, a video producer, and a spiritual director, should determine what the "variation of the month is."  Maybe the January variation is "love your spouse."  In February, the variation is "love your friends."  And so on.  Well, a movie production team would outline what costumes would be needed to make a movie called "love your neighbor as yourself," what kind of set design, what kind of actors best fit the part, and that sort of thing with the director.  That production plan determined by a centralized creative team determines the budget, and everything flows from that plan.

More and more Christian media entities are moving toward that centralized movie-like continuity, and I think that's a good thing, but I know a day will come when a "Spring Into Fitness" promotion will include a pair of sneakers running across the Web page, and maybe even flower-shaped buttons for the entire Web site during that promotion.  The continuity's there now, but the degree of it will increase.

The air personality, as a member of the "cast" and as a missionary, should follow the lead of the centralized creative team, as in a Christian movie.

 

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

We're indebted to many innovators in the field.  We owe and will owe any success, God-willing, to those who have made Christian music radio as popular as it is, in Massachusetts, the United States, and around the world.  Every Christian station, and specifically every Christian music station, is an inspiration to us.

KSBJ is very effective at and blessed in what they do.  When I listen to KSBJ, I feel the love of God. KSBJ seems to achieve the ideal message consistency I was talking about earlier to a greater degree than many, in my opinion.

 

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

I can only really talk about Massachusetts, and I know God is doing something really great here.  We're extremely thankful to all of what we consider our "brother and sister" stations that have paved the way for the WNSH Educational Foundation to take over WNSH.com 1570 with uplifting and encouraging music.

I'm personally thankful for the tireless work of our interim Church Growth Specialist, Jacqueline Lacy, and for Jana Schneider, our first "Boston FM" vice president returning to serve on the WNSH Educational Foundation board.  We'd be nowhere without our volunteers. Of course, we're thankful to God.

God uses our content to remind people that He loves them, and that's what we care about most.


 

 

 

 

 

 

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