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Don Hughes
CEO Great Plains Christian Radio

Issues Facing Christian Radio




The thought occurs to me as I write this that I must do so quickly and send it to His Air as it could all change before anyone reads it. Things change instantly in this computer age and we need to have mobility to adapt to new trends. However, at the same time understand that many habits and trends change more slowly. Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 1:9-10, “That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which it may be said, ‘See this is new’? It has already been in ancient times before us.” The message and attitudes of the heart do not change, but the way it is delivered or communicated changes quickly. So, let’s say, I am here addressing some major issues of which I am aware at the moment. This report is by no means exhaustive.

Radio is changing as a media source of choice by listeners. People have many more listening choices in this mobile electronic age. Radio needs to work to be a participant in new media outlets. We are engaged in the world-wide connection through the internet and streaming-audio. I presently have in my home an internet radio allowing a choice of 8000 stations. This radio is smaller than some of our conventional radios around the house, but it can pick up streaming-audio signals without the use of a computer. The cost is about $125. Radio needs to be involved in telephone applications that make listening possible through cell phones. Vehicles are starting to be equipped with internet, and this will make it possible to listen to your own station(s) while driving across the country. This could be the demise of satellite radio by having so many choices in a vehicle with the internet connection and people could be reluctant to pay the fees for use of satellite. This would be a good thing for local stations.
Young people are using the large number of choices available to them for electronic media. Varied avenues of listening are more common among young people, while older people tend to still tune to traditional forms of media. The dividing line is probably somewhere in the 25-30 age range. I have told my sons if they can come up with a way to make radio the media of choice for their age group they could make a lot of money. I feel that Christian radio will maintain a hold on the market longer than other formats; however this is a serious area of concern for radio.
Radio needs to work on being active on various platforms. My own Board of Directors had a meeting last year where I talked about Facebook and there was concern expressed that announcers are on Facebook while they are on the air. Broadcasters need to be in contact with listeners as many ways as possible. We are doing on-air contests via Facebook. We now have over two thousand listeners on our Facebook Page and communicate daily through this platform. Occasionally there is the “Question of the Day” and we will receive fifty or more responses. An example of a question of the day was, “Are you involved in a Church activity on Wednesday night? If so, what is it?” People responded instantly to this question. Seventy percent of Facebook users are female and seventy percent of Christian radio listeners are female.
Your web site needs to consistently be updated. You need to consider a full-time person to handle the website and other interactive media sources.
A huge increase in Performance Fees could be implemented. We are charged fees by BMI, ASCAP and SESAC for broadcasting music. There are also fees for streaming-audio. Due to file sharing and other such duplication of music that deprives artists and record companies of income from the sell of CDs, they are trying to push through having radio stations pay the artists for use of their music. Radio, for over half a century, has played the music and made the stars. Now, however, the music industry wants radio to bail out their slumping sales. At this point, we don’t know the outcome of this movement or what fees we may have to pay if the music industry prevails on this issue. Alert your listeners concerning this matter with announcements on the air. Also be involved with organizations that are addressing the issue with Congress.
Funding! I learned along time ago that you need to make it convenient for listeners to send in a donation.  We do a number of things for mailing list acquisition to identify our listeners by name and address. We do talk about funding on the air and give our address, however very few people will hand-address an envelope and mail it in, therefore we make an effort to identify our listeners and send them something in the mail with a return envelope. About once or twice a year, we acquire a good book and open the phone lines to give away five hundred or more copies. The book is ministry-oriented, but it also serves to try to attract new people to contact us. We give away other Christian material almost on a daily basis and obtain contacts through this source. Selling tickets to events perhaps gives us the best names and addresses as they represent people willing to put forth money for their family to attend an event. These would also likely be people who would become a contributor. Annually we conduct a Kid’s Coloring Contest with a place on the form not only for the child’s name, but also the parents. The kids name is added on the birthday list and the parents on our regular mailing list. This year represents our 15th year conducting the coloring contest. It is my hope that kids will remember us announcing their name on the radio, receiving a birthday card or winning a prize, and will have fond memories of the ministry. Perhaps when they are older they will continue to listen and maybe even become a donor. Basically, if you want to increase donations then increase the size of your mailing list. Also, you need to work to increase electronic methods of giving.
As Christian broadcasters we are aware of where most of our listeners are located on Sunday morning. It is important to be involved with the local church. We have developed an e-mail list of churches for instant communication. The only way to acquire a good list was to call them on the phone and ask. Our church e-mail list is at 1150 and growing. We have an on going program of trying to call every donor and tell them, “Than you,” and ask them how we might pray for them. We send them a card signed by the staff members who gathered to take that request before the Throne of Grace. Each year we take a section of a listener area and do a saturation mailing to every home to tell them about the ministry and present the Gospel. Each effort we make brings forth some new contacts.
The economy is a concern. Various sources indicate that big banks are still involved in risky investments with a large margin and little collateral to back up the investments. The decline of housing values and derivatives were largely responsible for the problems that developed in September of 2008. As you well know, the government funneled money to the banks to overcome the problem; however, there were very few reforms to change this type of investment. There are huge investments now referred to as “carry trades” where people are making money from the decline of the value of the dollar, low interest rates and the stability of other currencies against the dollar. The return is small, but the investments are large with huge margins. According to a study by the Roosevelt Institute, Rob Johnson of the United Nations Commission of Experts on Finance says that regulatory reform measures proposed by the Obama Administration will do little and need to be more stringent to prevent big banks from continuing to engage in high risk investing that precipitated the near collapse of the U.S. Economy. The report warns the country is in a doomsday cycle, wherein banks use borrowed money to take massive risks in an attempt to pay big dividends to shareholders and big bonuses to management. If it goes wrong, they will once again depend on the government to bail them out. I am concerned that another event like this will be magnified and greater than the event of 2008. Issues like this, of course are not in our control but something we should be mindful of occurring. Prayer for God’s intervention and guiding hand is mandatory of us this ministry.
I have learned in my broadcasting career of more than forty years, we need to reinvent the ministry every seven years to keep up with change. A little changes every year, but overall what we are seven years from now needs to be totally different than what we are now. We have strength from both change, and those things that stay the same -- like the message of Jesus Christ who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”


Don is observing forty years in broadcasting in 2009.  Great Plains Christian Radio consists of seven full power stations and thirty-six translators. The flagship station, KJIL, has been named Station of the Year most recently by NRB and in the past they have received that honor from GMA, NAB (Marconi), Focus on The Family and the Kansas Association of Broadcasters.  Don Hughes and his wife Polly have been married for thirty-one years and they have six children. 

Don Hughes can be reached at