Today we’ve got a true radio story. If you’ve ever worked in management at a noncom or commercial station you’ve seen people dream big and then fall on their ass.
One of the most frequent radio dreams is to start your own station. The freedom seems so inviting and the opportunities so great. I lived this dream in 1982 when I signed on KSKY-FM in the Black Hills. So, I can relate to the people in this short story because I've been there.
In mid-June I saw this ad in a newsletter I get from a broker of broadcast stations:
I eat call letters for breakfast but I had never heard of this station. So I investigated.
WAJC FM 88.1 is licensed to Newport, Minnesota – a far-flung southern exurb of St. Paul. WAJC’s Construction Permit was granted in 2010 and they signed on in 2013. The owner of WAJC is Religious Information Network, a 501c3 nonprofit organization.
Now WAJC is for sale. The asking price is $750,000.
Take a look at WAJC’s coverage map:
This is NOT a Minneapolis-St. Paul metro radio station. This is a station that runs on hype and the tank is empty.
THE TRUE STORY
Jill Martin Rische is the oldest daughter of Dr. Walter Martin. Dr. Martin is a long-time radio preacher known as The Original Bible Answer Man.
Jill married Kevin Rische – they met at church. Dr. Martin brought Kevin Rische into the family business: Preaching For Dollars On the Radio. Kevin was put in charge of digitizing Dr. Martin’s 40-some years of broadcasting.
Dr. Martin’s program The Original Bible Answer Man and other shows made a lot of money. They were (and still are) time-brokered broadcasts on commercial religious stations. Dr. Martin gained notoriety with true believers with his late 1960s book The Kingdom of the Cults.
Dr. Martin was getting older and apparently had cash on hand.
LET’S START OUR OWN STATION!
Someone convinced someone to apply for a new FM allocation for Newport, Minnesota. Religious Information Network was one of several applicants. They won the license in a mutually-exclusive (“MX”) contest at the FCC in 2010.
Kevin and Jill planned the station and started building. Here is Kevin Rische at the WAJC tower location:
Here is the tower erection:
MEET THE REMNANT
The Remnant – WAJC’s brand name – signed on in 2013. According to it’s website [link] The Remnant airs Contemporary Christian Music (“CCM”) and all Dr. Walter Martin’s programs.
2013 is when the happy talk ends. Things got real.
THE REMNANT MEETS REALITY
According IRS 990 tax fillings, The Remnant’s revenue has been between $20,000 and $40,000 every year since they signed on. Expenses exceed revenue every year, sometimes by thousands of dollars.
It seems so clear now what went wrong:
• WAJC doesn’t cover enough of the Twin Cities to be a viable metro station.
• Northwestern College Broadcasting (KTIS) owns the religious noncom market in the Twin Cities. KTIS draws around 400,000 listeners a week. Salem Broadcasting scoops up the rest.
• Kevin and Jill ran to The Remnant 24/7 and didn’t make much money. But they did have a free station vehicle.
• Dr. Walter Martin – The Original Bible Answer Man didn’t realize the some times God says “NO.”