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Radio Interview


Debbie Byrd

General Manager


Salisbury, MD



Debbie's Career Capsule
Debbie is a retired County Administrator who was responsible for the oversight and financial management of all County governmental functions in two Maryland counties. While serving in County government, Debbie concurrently studied for an Associate Degree in Ministry and a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology. She was new to the radio industry when she began working with WOLC Joy! 102.5 in 2000 as Sales Director (finding out, upon her arrival, that she had a staff of one – herself!). She was selected to fill the General Manager position of Maranatha, Inc. in 2001. In addition to the 50,000 watt tri-State radio ministry of Joy! 102.5, Debbie also oversees the Manna, Maranatha’s Christian newspaper, with a circulation of over 500,000 annually.

1. Tell us about your market and how it is unique?

Our market is comprised of the Delmarva Peninsula, Southern Maryland and the “Northern Neck” of Virginia.  It is predominantly a rural geographic area separated partially by the Chesapeake Bay. While there was a time when Maranatha, Inc. would have identified a predominantly female audience between ages 25 and 45, the efforts of the ministry are currently not as limited. We seem to strike an amazingly satisfactory balance of a cross-generational audience – from children to grandparents – and seem to appeal to male and female alike.


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

The manner in which the community embraces the ministry staff as part of their own families.  It is very humbling to have people hold us in such “high regard” when, in fact, we are just like them in every way --- it is also rewarding when we see the look of appreciation when we explain that to them.  Another rewarding/humbling aspect would have to be the trust the Lord and people place in us with their prayer requests and with their donations.


3. How do you personally keep the ministry in the business?

Ministry comes first.  Perhaps it is easier because, while we are licensed as a commercial station, we choose to conduct business as if we were licensed as a non-commercial station – that seems to keep some of the secularization at bay. It’s important for us, in ministry, to put people first – to take the time to pray with someone that calls on the phone in need of someone to talk to.  I find that in-house ministry is also very important.  We get involved in the busyness of the ministry and can fall into a trap of not being ministered to ourselves.  Also, we stop for devotions for a half hour every weekday morning – the phones are put in night mode and everyone stops what they are doing to get together for a short discussion and prayer.


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

First and foremost, the song must bring glory to God and be obviously Christ-centered.  We try to make sure the words are intelligible and that the beat is not to “hot” for our unusually balanced audience.


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

We’re not big into promotions in the usual sense.  We do a scriptural pursuit contest twice a day with a CD as a prize.  We will partner with other entities (churches or professional promoters) that want to bring a concert into the area but we do not undertake the contracting or the details of the concert directly.


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

By not succumbing to secularization.  Some of the best songs, in my opinion, that are out right now are old hymns that have been redone with a contemporary flair.  That is the perfect example of balancing music to meet diverse ages of the audience.  I think Christian labels should hold artists to an absolute highest standard – if a song relies on “yeahs” it tells me the writer didn’t have anything deeper to say; if a song is filled with heavy sighs that sensualize the song, I am left wondering about the motivation behind it.


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

Again, secularization in many ways.  While we don’t consider ourselves to have “competition” in the secular radio marketplace, certainly the business owners that we approach for sponsorships do consider whether their business will be better “promoted” on a secular station or on a Christian station.  Radio “sales” can be a cut-throat business and we don’t want any part of it at that level.  Another area would be that Christian radio will have to take a stand against trends to make music hotter/faster etc….it’s not that Christian music cannot be hot or fast, but it’s important not to lose focus on the fact that “hotter/faster” does not represent the entire audience nor to lose  focus on what it’s all about to begin with. 


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

I guess I have to take issue with the way the question is phrased.  We don’t hire radio “personalities”, we hire announcers who can minister through word and song selection.  The only “personality” to be promoted on our radio ministry is the personality of Christ.


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

I haven’t closely studied other Christian radio stations since ours is the only Christian radio station in our area (other than a few small translator signals of other out-of-State stations).  I do pay attention to the trends I see on SkyLight, which we use during some of our automated hours. 


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

I believe that, by virtue of satellite and the internet, there will be a larger Christian radio audience in five years.  With all of the hurts and troubles of this world, I think people will turn more towards Christian radio than they have in the past.  I also think that we will see a trend towards more traditional music.  By that I mean, for instance, the modern hymns or what I would call “true” praise and worship music; I think the “hotter” Christian music is a passing phase.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy some of the hotter music but I think the time is coming when we will model music for the world and not the other way around


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