I was reflecting earlier today about my current employment, what I did before that, and about the various radio stations I have worked for. Twelve years ago, I helped launch a Christian radio station, WTIK. That station had been around for a long time, but it had floundered for quite some time before being purchased by The Positive Radio Group.
At the time, I was working for two different Christian radio stations, WRTP and WPJL, both on a part time basis. When I went to work for their sworn enemy, I was asked to leave both other stations. I understood. The problem at the time was that I had just left a job as a sales rep for a burglar and fire alarm company and had no full time employment. Even though WTIK was offering full time work, it was only minimum wage. Hey, I needed more hours to make more money, and although the other stations were paying a higher per hour wage, I could not get full time hours.
Positive Radio Group was anything but what the name implies. Their management philosophy was to put anything they could on the radio, recruit churches and ministries to pay for fifteen, thirty, or sixty minutes of air time, and take no thought for quality.
This opened my eyes to a lot of things. First, not all "ministries" pay the bill but expect special treatment because they are ministries. So called Christian businesses are not necessarily owned or run by Christians. The owner of the radio chain was not a professing Christian. He bought run down stations and made them into Christian programming because it was an easy format to do, the programs are recurring revenue. That means that you don't have to constantly sell the time over and over again as you do with spot advertising. Many churches and religious groups will purchase time on more than one station in a group. That is easy money. Most Christian stations claim poverty and pay paltry wages. They inspire and encourage little if any creativity or professionalism in their staff.
WTIK had a sister station, WFTK, which eventually moved into the same building. The Positive Radio Group philisophy was to spend as little money as possible on improving equipment. They used cheap equipment that did the job. They even put two radio stations in the same room, even though other studios were available. That would offer the opportunity to run two stations with the same operator, if that person did nothing but play button pusher. They invested no money into production facilities, since all ads and tags were made in the same monotone voice by the same no talent managers.
The lack of quality at WTIK really annoyed me. It is one thing to call yourself a Contemporary Christian station. It is entirely another to have no Contemporary Christian music. They started to have some trickle in. We played some Praise and Worship music, some Adult Contemporary music, and then I brought in some from my own collection. The stuff I had was often better than the stuff they had, so I got some listener requests for my music. When I was not there or did not bring my own collection, they got complaints from some listeners who wanted to hear the stuff I played.
One manager there knew nothing to speak of about radio. That does not surprise me, since few people really get it. The general manager there must have made decent money, especially when he started selling for WTIK after its acquisition by PRG. Unfortunately, he had absolutely no talent for radio and his annoying voice was on most ads, tags, and announcements on both stations. There was no production music or quality facility, so the production values were horrid. This made for bland radio and poor quality.
That same station also would literally do the "dollar for a holler" thing. Anyone with money could buy time. It didn't matter if the preaching was heretical or not. We had one program that was just so pathetic, I actually stopped it from playing one day and went to music. It was full of heresy, but the station didn't care until he stopped paying his bills.
Another time, the station leased several hours a day to a Hispanic company. They brought in their own announcers and played mariachi music. The sales reps never bothered to check the content of the programming. The show was sponsored by a Mexican restaurant chain. They were helping promote secular Mexican music, concerts, and were playing a lot of beer ads. I found that out by talking with one of their promoters who came in to the studio one day. I relayed the info to the management, and they claimed to not know about it. When the sales rep from a Charlotte station called (he actually sold the time), he claimed that everyone knew about the secular nature of the programming and that all gave their assent and approval. Go figure.
I eventually became music director for that station. I took the music format I inherited from the previous operations manager and tweaked it a bit. I reworked the rotation system to where it was actually doing much better than it used to. Of course I was programming a losing proposition, since music was just a space filler until that block of time could be sold and a long form program put in its place.
After the operations manager for WTIK quit, I was eventually offered the job. I was hired and within a few days, the offer recinded. They decided to have the operations manager for WFTK take on both stations instead of paying two operations managers. I understand that concept, but it was underhanded and dishonest to do it the way in which they did. That was actually the second time that happened to me in my lifetime.
It was not long after that point that I was actually fired from that station. I harped on quality in our product. I was told that quality was not a consideration. It was explained that the station is merely a tranmission service. It was compared to AT&T. AT&T, being a phone company, provides the service of communications across their phone network. They don't care what is said, data is carried, or if nothing is carried on their network. They only care about supplying the transmission service for the customer and the customer paying for that service.
I apparently mentioned quality once too often, since when I was acquainting a new employee to the job, we had a frank discussion on quality. He was a young hot shot DJ that played Black Gospel on another station previously and thought that he was the absolute best that God had to offer to any radio audience. He wasn't all that, I can tell you. He was probably one of the cockiest guys in radio that I had met in a long time. He was talking about the great quality job that he was going to do there. I told him that I had been in radio for over ten years at that point and that WTIK was unfortunately not very interested in quality, and he would see that for himself.
It was during that summer, of 1994, that I met my future wife, Teresa. I took her to the station often while we were dating. It was actually encouraged by the man who was the operations manager at the time. He was a young man who worked at WFTK, was easy going, and wanted to build a team for a quality work for God. He was obviously at the wrong radio station for that. He quit after a while, he went back into financial planning, dropped his radio program from the station, and I rarely ever heard from him again. I remember that his first name was Scott, but forgot his last name. I remember meeting his wife, whom I liked. I can't remember her name, though.
I looked up WTIK on Wikipedia a bit ago. I don't know who wrote the information there, but it is erroneous on several facts. I was there when the station was made into a Contemporary Christian station. I was there at sign on and helped build the programming. The years listed are incorrect. Wikipedia is sometimes accurate, sometimes off. They actually have a track record that is on par with Encyclopedia Britannica, I read, so some stuff can be trusted.
Some of the stations that I have mentioned here are gone. They have changed ownership or formats over the years. WRTP acquired an FM translator in Raleigh, an AM station in Mebane, in Garner, and an FM in Roanoke Rapids. They are gone and under new ownership now. WTIK is still on the air, and I found their current coverage map online. It is a bit exaggerated. Trust me. The only station that has not wavered in the local Christian radio market is WPJL.
On a side note, another station that I used to work for, WBZB, is for sale yet again. It was under contract when I worked there. I already wrote about that some time ago. The station was sold for $1000. Yup, just a grand. The dishonest old bastard who owned the license owed me back wages, at least according to the court system. He could have given me the license and I would have called it even, but nnnoooooooooo! I had a legal judgement against him and he turned around and sold the license for $1000 instead of just giving it to me and satisfy the judgement. Figures. It ended up as a local music format (which was doomed to fail. I knew it as soon as I heard the new format concept) then it became WTSB after being sold for $1.3 million.
Lord, how I do miss radio. I don't miss the dishonesty that I ran across from different so called Christian employers or radio stations. I don't miss the lack of desire for quality, but I sure do miss the business of radio. I would rather do that than just about anything else, I do believe.