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Radio Interview

                                     

Stel Pontikes

Program Director

KEZK-HD2

St Louis

 

 

Stel's Career Capsule
1970-1975...KBIL-AM, St. Louis University's campus radio station
1975-1978...KADI-FM, St. Louis (album rock)
1978-present...KSLQ-FM/KYKY-FM, St. Louis (Top 40 then, Hot AC now)
1980-1985...WCBW-FM, St. Louis (contemporary Christian)
1983-1987...Consulted CCM-formatted stations
1975-present...Host of The Answer Radio Show, a 3-hr. Contemporary Christian music show, Sunday mornings, 7AM-10AM, on KYKY-FM.

2007-present...Programming KEZK-HD2, our new faith-based music HD Radio station in St. Louis, which will also be available online as CBS Radio and AOL ramp up their streaming agreement in June '08.  

 

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

By trying to focus on God's direction and wisdom every day regarding my work with both KEZK (soft rock) and Y98 (Hot AC), knowing that I'm working within 2 mainstream radio stations which have goals and aspirations that, at times, can be different than my focus on the Kingdom.  I feel like Paul did with his tentmaking business...making those tents allowed him to do the ministry that he was called to do.  For me, working at both Y98 and KEZK has opened the door to allow me to do what God has called me to do in ministry, with both The Answer Radio Show on Y98 and programming KEZK-HD2 as a brand-new, full-time, full-power, faith-based music station. 

There's an amazing story behind the birth of KEZK-HD2 in July of 2007 which actually goes back to 1965, and it's intertwined with the little church which my wife and I attend nearby.  It's a story that I knew nothing about until a year ago.  Now, in 2008, to see how God has fulfilled His Word to that small congregation over 40 years later, regarding a Christian music station positioned at 102.5 on the FM dial in St. Louis, is totally amazing to me.  No one had a clue about HD Radio back then.  And He used a mainstream company like CBS Radio to do it.  Whodathunkit?!?  Certainly not me. 

If you visit KEZK.com, you'll see KEZK-HD2 prominently featured, including a link to a separate page that lists the "last 99 songs" on the station, along with a brief bio of the format.  I don't believe there's another top mainstream station in the country that so prominently features Christian music on it's website.  Non-believers are coming across that information on a daily basis on KEZK's website, and I trust that God will use that exposure to touch their hearts and provoke them to want to check out what the music and KEZK-HD2 are all about. 

 

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

Improvement in on-air presentation is evident and laudable, but there's still an "addiction to mediocrity" that's stunting overall growth.   Yes, there are some stations which have risen above that mediocre level.  But to me, many still remain below the bar.  We all need to be striving for excellence. 

 

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

It's gotta fit the sound of the station that I'm shooting for in my head...!!  And solid music beats out great lyrics every time, because you've gotta grab the listeners ear first with the music.  Then they'll check out the lyrics.  I know some folks will disagree with me on that, but having worked in both mainstream and Christian formats for almost 40 years, I still believe the best lyrics don't mean a thing if the music can't carry those lyrics into a listener's heart. 

 

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

Opportunities for families and/or friends to do stuff together, whether it's to benefit others and to share the love of Christ, or to help them strengthen their own relationship with Christ. 

 

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

I think some of the labels have improved their understanding of how different stations or programs have different needs, or that they maintain a different programming focus.  Believe it or not, not every station is called to play Adult Contemporary music!  You wouldn't believe how many times, over the years, I've had to explain the essence of formatic differences to label reps who refuse to acknowledge the differences that exist.  Mainstream radio and labels have understood it for ages.  Christian radio and labels still seem to be catching up...some are catching up better than others.

 

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

Internet downloading and piracy on the business end, and the disappearance of "gut feeling" music decisions on the programming side (in my book, there's nothing wrong with jumping on a song right now because you believe in it).  Removing the "Christianese" talk that alienates many potential new listeners. Being real on-the-air, sharing about the struggles that we all go through.  Setting high standards for your on-air product.  Creating a sound that's uniquely your own.  Utilizing imaging that adds sparkle to your on-air product, not stuff that drags the station down.

 

7. What radio stations do you consider as innovators today?

Mainstream: WXRT-FM/Chicago; WDRV-FM (The Drive)/Chicago; WZLX-FM/Boston; WBCN-FM/Boston.

Christian: Shine.fm/Kankakee-Chicago; RadioU/Columbus, Ohio; The Fish/Atlanta; WAY-FM/Denver-Ft. Collins.

 

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

Hopefully, mature enough to understand that there's more to sharing the Gospel than just meeting the needs of "Becky."  And there's more to Christian music than just the stuff that's been released in the last 10 years.  I mean GOOD stuff, not dorky stuff.  And there are young adults and men that need the spiritual anchor of Christian music radio too.  They're being left behind.   There's a reason why iPods and the internet have invaded the music scene.  Radio refused to meet those music needs (just keep playing the same stuff over and over...great research, huh?!), so the crowd went elsewhere.  Take the risk to reach out to them.  Ask the Lord for wisdom and guidance on how to do it.

  

 

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