Career Capsule: Studied social work and worked as a probation officer for two years in my homeland of New Zealand. After a stint touring Europe on a bicycle I began training with the mission organisation Youth With a Mission. I went on to direct YWAM’s work in Ireland for more than 25 years. I got involved in radio more by accident than design, when the door opened unexpectedly. I am married to Anne and we have six children.
1. Rob, tell us what’s new at Spirit Radio in Ireland… news, changes, expansion, with you… etc?
We were floored by results of listenership survey that told us we had more than doubled our listenership over period of 2 years. We are now reaching over half a million people weekly across Ireland. We are broadcasting in all five main cities and many of the major towns. We recently launched the station in Kilkenny, Carlow and Athlone and want to roll out to another ten towns in the next 18 months.
2. What is the best programming advice you’ve been given? The worst?
‘Nobody ever lost a listener by playing another song’
3. What are some of the biggest challenges running a CCM in Ireland?
Spirit Radio is Ireland’s first licenced Christian Radio Station to broadcast on FM (or AM). Now on air five years, Spirit has been ploughing a new furrow in a nation where 87% of the population listen to radio for an average of three hours a day. Listener supported radio is a brand new concept — slowly we are building a network of support. Probably like most stations, across the globe, one of the biggest challenges is generating the finance to keep the show on the road and extend our network to the ten towns that are still waiting for our transmission to arrive.
One other challenge that I want to name is the challenge to keep the main thing the main thing, namely reaching people with the love of Christ. There are always so many little things pulling at us and we have to remind ourselves daily that the focus of our work is to help people take a step to begin or renew their relationship with God.
4. What is the ONE thing you must have everyday to do your job?
The one thing I need to do my job is a little quiet at the beginning of the day to collect myself before the Lord and set out the plan for the day — too often the day has a way of kind of imposing it’s plan on me.
5. Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?
We are using our late night chat show as a training arena to give our young presenters an opportunity to develop their skills. We are particularly concerned to help our young presenters look at the myriad of issues that arise within contemporary culture with a biblical mindset.
6. Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
We need to raise awareness of the importance of Christian Radio amongst Christian leaders. In my experience Christian leaders are slow to see the important role that Christian radio can play. So many, concerned about the negative impact of mainstream media, have given up on radio. Secondly Christian leaders are more likely to work from home or close to home so that they less likely to listen to radio while commuting.
In an age and culture where so many grow up with a sense of entitlement — we need to continually help cultivate an attitude of gratitude for the opportunity to work in Christian Radio.
The third challenge we face is, I think, the challenge to build a sense of connection amongst our listening community. We are trying to create that sense of mission together to reach the wider nation.
7. Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
Dick Jenkins is one of my radio heroes. His passion for radio, his gift for understanding what the listener wants to hear have been an enormous influence on all of us at Spirit Radio.