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Radio Interview


Smilin Tom Fridley

Program Director

WZFS "The Fish"




Toms' Career Capsule
Current Status: Program Director/Music Director/Afternoon Drive Host – WZFS Chicago, Judge on TV show “Inspiration Sensation” on Total Living Network, Local singer/songwriter/performing musical artist. Brief Career Capsule: Operations Manager – WCOL – FM / Columbus, Ohio, Program Director – WBBS / Syracuse, NY, Assistant Program Director – WBOB-FM / Minneapolis, MN. Other stations: WBZZ, WRRK, WVTY / Pittsburgh, KHYI / Dallas, WMJQ / Buffalo, WJET-FM / Erie, PA, WHTO / Williamsport, PA, WKYN, WKBI AM & FM / St. Marys, PA. (first radio job in 1982 at age 16), TV reporting in Minneapolis, Columbus, and Syracuse.

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

The most obvious uniqueness is the size of Chicago and its many suburbs. There is a great deal of in-car listening because it is always ‘drive time’ in Chicago. You’ll find traffic jams at any time of any day on any given road or expressway. There are also 70-something stations to choose from, though not every signal covers the entire market. It’s a real challenge to get noticed and make your mark here.


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

Having the chance to do positive things every day at my job is a dream come true.


3. How has God used you in your role at WZFS?

I don’t know how I could honestly answer that question. I hope I’m a bright light in people’s day, both in the office and on the ‘other side of the radio.’ I do know He’s used me to fill a lot of space (PD, MD and air talent,) and hopefully I sometimes do something that matters.


4. What is the criteria that determines if a song receives airplay on The Fish?

We look for hits. Fish listeners have told us what kinds of songs they like, and we try to find more of those kind. Occasionally an independent artist will get airplay. It’s all about the song.


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

Promotions that are family centered. Kids are powerful motivators for moms and dads.


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

I’d like to give you an intelligent and insightful answer, but honestly, I’m pleased with how most labels serve The Fish.


7. What are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio today?

I am concerned with Christian stations being spread too thin in the personnel department. People need time to think and talk with each other. The daily multi-tasking routine doesn’t leave room for creativity and compassion. There just isn’t enough time to get all the work done and still be available if someone is in need. Something has to give.


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

It should vary from market-to-market, based on what your listeners want from you. At the very least, I believe you should offer a positive, entertaining alternative to what people hear on secular stations. You’ve got to be a reflection of your listeners and their lifestyles. You also have a huge responsibility because you’re representing our Lord, so you better be bursting with joy, and you better not be lazy!


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

I know there are many great Christian stations doing wonderful things, but I don’t have time to listen to them. Back in ‘90 and ‘91 when I was doing CHR at Y 95 in Dallas I used to listen to KLTY and wished I could work there. It was the first entertaining Christian music station I had ever heard. I’ll never forget the first time I got to play MICHAEL W. SMITH’s crossover hit “Place In This World” on Y 95. I was so excited and privileged to play a song that mattered so much on a CHR station that I dropped a few tears while it was playing. A few weeks later Smitty actually came into the studio while I was on the air. Those were two of the most memorable days of my career.


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

In every major and medium market, and hopefully, even in most small markets. I recall my first year in radio back in the early 80’s when CHR stations began sweeping the nation. My town never had a station that played the hits, and when our FM flipped from Country to CHR the whole town thought it was the coolest thing. We had no idea that it was happening in every market. It would be wonderful to see the same thing happen to CCM.


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