Bill Virgin's Radio Beat July 12, 2007

Includes archive of Bill Virgin's columns fromJ une 2006 - March 2009

Bill Virgin's Radio Beat July 12, 2007

Postby radiofan » Thu Jul 12, 2007 9:45 pm

On Radio: Religious radio makes inroads with stations and translators

One of the biggest radio operators in Washington, at least in terms of the number of stations, is an organization many listeners have never heard of.

Unless, of course, they're fans of religious instructional programming or contemporary Christian music, and live in a market where Calvary Chapel of Twin Falls, Idaho, operates an FM translator or a full-power FM station.

Calvary Chapel has built a network of nearly 400 translators (which rebroadcast a signal from another station) and 51 full-power FM stations, providing two programming channels: CSN, featuring biblical teaching and worship music, and The Effect, which offers Christian rock.

CSN has three full-power FM stations and more than two dozen translators in Washington (full station lists are at, while The Effect is heard on seven translators in the state, including Enumclaw and Everett, both at 88.1 (

Calvary Chapel isn't the only religious entity building a network of translators and full-power stations. EMF Broadcasting lists a dozen translators in Washington alone for its K-Love and Air 1 Christian music channels. Horizon Christian Fellowship has plans for as many as 15 FM translators in the state.

Like many markets, Seattle has multiple radio outlets for religious programming. Salem Communications' five Seattle AM stations include two with religious formats. Locally based Crista Ministries has an FM contemporary-Christian music station and an AM religious instruction station. KBLE-AM (1050) is operated by Sacred Heart Radio to provide Catholic programming.

Mike Stocklin, general manager of CSN and The Effect, says Calvary Chapel launched its network "to provide an outlet for ministries," not just Calvary programs but others as well.

"It seems like there are far more of these networks than in secular radio formats," says Scott Valentine, program director and morning co-host for Crista's KCMS-FM (105.3).

Those translator networks haven't had much of an impact on the listenership of terrestrial radio operations like KCMS, Valentine says. The advantage may be in having local programming and audiences.

"People want to be part of a community," he says. "They want to share an appreciation of the music."

The story may be different, however, as the online audience grows.

"It's a worldwide audience; you can go anywhere and get anything you want," he says. "Broadcasters need to get past thinking of markets as being 50 miles around their tower."

Calvary Chapel hopes to build a national network of radio outlets, either by buying properties or seeking licenses for new full-power outlets in the Federal Communications Commission's next round of applications in October, Stocklin says.

Calvary Chapel doesn't operate any stations and translators in Seattle, and with the local radio spectrum being as crowded as it is, prospects aren't great that it will.

"It's a marvelous market but it's rather pricey to buy something," he adds.

The FCC has on file an application from Calvary Chapel in Bremerton for a low-power FM station. But Stocklin says the Bremerton Calvary Chapel is not related to Calvary Chapel of Twin Falls.

In other radio notes:

Mercer Island High School station KMIH-FM (104.5) has been doing some testing at its eventual home at 88.9. No date has been set on a permanent shift to the new frequency, a move prompted by the relocation of KMCQ-FM to Covington and 104.5

Meanwhile, Dallas-based First Broadcasting, which owns KMCQ-FM, has filed with the FCC to relocate the transfer of the planned transmitter site of that station from near Enumclaw to Cougar Mountain (which is tucked between Bellevue, Newcastle and Issaquah). As part of that proposed move, Bellingham's KAFE-FM (104.3) would move to 104.1, while a station First Broadcasting owns in Forks also would shift.

Hal Rose, First Broadcasting's senior vice president of corporate development and regulatory affairs, said no decision has been made on KMCQ's format when it signs on for regular service in the Seattle area.

KIRO-AM (710) said morning talk host Dave Ross has signed a three-year contract extension with the station. Ross, who began with KIRO in 1978, is heard 9 a.m.-noon weekdays.

Don Riggs' guests on "Introspect Northwest," heard at 7 a.m. Sunday on KMPS-FM (94.1) and 9 a.m. Sunday on KPTK-AM (1090), include Seattle Police Officer Steve Pomper, author of a book on drivers and traffic tickets, "Is There a Problem, Officer?"

The Sunday edition of Jim French's "Imagination Theatre," heard at 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on KIXI-AM (880), includes a new adventure of Raffles the Gentleman Thief.

P-I reporter Bill Virgin can be reached at 206-448-8319 or

Bill Virgin's Radio Beat Thursdays in the Seattle P-I
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.
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