Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Airing Values: More Listeners Tuning in to Christian Radio

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Airing Values: More Listeners Tuning in to Christian Radio

Article excerpt

Kay Meyer's pulpit is eight stories high.

Each Wednesday from 4 to 5 p.m., she is host of a new call-in Christian radio program, "Family Shield." She looks out over part of her flock - homebound commuters - from a KSIV (1320 AM) studio in Brentwood o verlooking Highway 40 (Interstate 64).

On a recent afternoon, Meyer, 47, sympathized with a caller who struggled to keep her children from watching violent cartoons with bad language. She gave tips on keeping children quiet at worship services. She passed along a suggestion for making Bible learning fun for children: Write easy questions about Biblical characters on a tick-tack-toe grid; correct answers win X's or O's.

"Or, make them name a song with Jesus in the name," she told her listeners as she flipped through her four-page show outline.

Meyer's show is one of the newest programs in the Christian radio boom. While some stations are losing listeners, Christian radio's audience is growing because it helps listeners add a spiritual dimension to their lives, says KSIV General Manager Mike McHardy.

Since 1980, the number of radio stations with more than 15 hours of religious programming has more than doubled to nearly 1,500. Last year alone, the number increased 10 percent, according to the National Religious Broadcasters, a trade association based in Manassas, Va. Religious formats now are the third-largest after adult contemporary and country. One in eight stations has a religious focus.

Illinois has 42 full-time religious radio stations, up from 32 a decade ago. In Missouri, religious stations have dropped to 35 from 39, but today's stations are bigger and more have full-time religious programming.

In the St. Louis area the number of full-time Christian stations has increased to 11 from eight in five years. Others air some Christian programming.

Religious radio is about to get bigger here. Within 90 days, the 12-station Bott Radio Network, based in Kansas City, plans to start a Christian talk format over KSLH-FM, 91.7. Bott is paying $1.6 million to the St. Louis Public Schools for the frequency. The FCC approved the purchase of the 100,000-watt station, making it as strong as any other religious station here. Bott owns KSIV and will continue operating it, Dick Bott Sr. said.

Programming Growth

KFUO-AM (850) is one of the few that produces most of its own programs. Most other stations have some locally produced shows but use tapes, compact discs and satellite reception for most of their programs.

Several stations including KFUO and KSIV air family talk shows produced by James C. Dobson's Focus on the Family. His evangelical broadcasting empire in Colorado Springs, Colo., produces programs that air on more than 1,300 stations. KSIV airs Dobson programs 10 times a week.

"More and more listeners are coming to Christian radio for total information," said KSIV's McHardy. …

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