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Radio Interview



Ken Farley

Consultant / PD

WCFL / Chicago


Kens' Career Capsule
I got my start in radio back in 1985 as a volunteer at KOKF, Oklahoma City. In 1986 I was hired on part-time and in 1987 I was upped to PD.  I maintained that position at KOKF until I left the beginning of 2000 to work at ForeFront Records as their Director of Promotions.  ForeFront did some restructuring back in the Spring of this year, and I was one of the employees let go during that time of transition.  Iím currently programming WCFL in Chicago and helping promote a new national CHR countdown show called The Weekend 22. 

1. How did you become the PD/Consultant at WCFL?

Shortly after I left ForeFront I found myself engaged in serious conversations with several different radio stations about handling PD duties.  As my wife and I prayed about which  direction to go,  we felt like at least for now, our family needed to stay here in Franklin,TN. So I  informed everyone that the only way I could be of service was if I did it from my office at home.  Station Manager, Steve Young, took me up on that offer, and I came on board in July. 

In working with the team at WCFL, for all intents and purposes I am the PD, responsible for programming all the music, working with the on-air staff, taking tracking calls, etc. Itís much more ďhands onĒ than most  typical consulting partnerships. The long-distance relationship has had itís set of challenges but itís also been very rewarding to work with a great group of people and give Steve the time heís needed to focus on other important things around the station.  We structured it in such a way that it gave Steve some flexibility with his budget and staffing needs,  and allowed me the opportunity to work with other stations if Iíd like and do things like promote  The Weekend 22. Ideally most stations will want someone in-house for the long haul, so I  really see my relationship with WCFL as a transitional one, laying the groundwork for the right  person to come in and take over that role on a full-time basis. 

2. How important is it for a Christian radio stations to have a consultant? please elaborate.

The vast majority of Christian radio stations donít use a consultant because they can barely make ends meet and take care of basic staffing needs, let alone hire someone from the outside.  Or, if theyíre in a position to bring on a consultant, they may feel like thereís no need because theyíre doing well enough on their own.  Tapping into an outside resource that really understands the unique DNA of your station and helps you define your goals and stay focused on reaching them,  can really move your team forward.  Also, having an objective person that you can bounce things off of and get a fresh perspective can really benefit the station as well.  Some will they say they canít afford to have a consultant,  while others will tell you they canít afford not to work with one. I know itís been said before, but even the best athletes in the world have coaches that help keep them on track. In mainstream radio, consultants are a mainstay in the industry and thatĎs why many of them perform so well.  Hopefully, Christian radio will be able to go more that direction in the future. 
3. Why in your opinion is the Chicago market able to support so many CCM stations?

The fact that Chicago is the 3rd largest market in the country makes it possible. I donít think youíd see five FM outlets in a market much smaller than that, and all of them make it.  From what I can tell, all of the Christian radio stations in Chicago have a very viable audience large enough to  keep them all on the air.  No one in Chicago should complain about not having a choice when it comes to Christian radio!

4. Do you think a full-time CCM station could be successful in New York City?

Good question.  Iím not sure.  I would like to think so, but when you factor in the exorbitant cost of operation and evaluate it from a cultural/lifestyle point of view, it seems like it has really been a challenge for anyone wanting to start up a full-time Christian music station in that part of the country.  Thatís one reason why most concert tours donít venture out that far because of the lack of Christian radio throughout much of the east coast.  I was born in Brooklyn and no doubt about itÖ. New York City could certainly use a full-time CCM station making an impact within the community.

5. How can Christian record labels better serve Christian radio?

Overall, I think the record labels are doing a good job.  Having worked at a label myself,  Iíve seen firsthand what goes on behind the scenes  and how hard people work to provide radio with the tools they need to succeed.  The reality is that with so many stations to keep in contact with, things are bound to slip between the cracks.  I think what it really boils down to is mutual respect for what both sides  bring to the table and looking for ways to make it a ďwin-winĒ for all parties involved.  

6. When searching for new CCM radio on air talent what do you look for?

Someone who is pursuing an on-going relationship with Christ, passionate about doing great radio, has the internal motivation to be the best they can be,  the willingness to learn,  can multi-task, is a team player,  and sincerely cares about people.  They also need to understand the make-up of their listening audience and know how to effectively communicate with them in a relevant and genuine  manner.

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

Limited resources and staff to effectively compete with other stations in the market.  In most small to medium markets, and even in a good number of large markets, youíll find stations under-staffed and over-worked.  One or two people around the office are wearing a bunch of hats and no one has time to focus and do anything well. Most stations donít have the budget to market and promote themselves  well or do any type of research to identify what their strengths and weaknesses are.  In those situations I would still challenge stations to dream big and not let their perceived limitations hold them back from being creative and doing great radio!

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

That depends on the personal vision of air personality  and corporate direction of the station.  For some it means encouraging believers in their walk with Christ or sharing their faith with those who donít have a relationship with Him. For others it may mean simply focusing on being as professional as possible and entertaining their listeners.  I believe if itís done right, you can do all of the above.  Ultimately a great air personality will really connect with their audience and compliment everything else the station has to offer.

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

I really believe that Christian radio will continue to grow due to the spirit of God drawing people to Him as well as the bar continually being raised on quality programming and  professionalism within the industry.  Of course our record label partners and all the artists, writers, and musicians involved play a pivotal role in this as well.  I think with the way technology keeps moving forward we also need to keep an eye out on satellite radio and the internet.  With terrestrial Christian radio not readily available in every market and still  considered  by many to be a niche format, there is opportunity for others out there to capitalize on that.  But if youíre confident in what youíre doing and are being a good steward of the resources entrusted in your care, almost anything is possible.



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