Commercial licence awarded to London Christian Radio

THE UK'S FIRST commercial licence for specifically Christian broadcasting has been won by London Christian Radio. The announcement of the licence award, which took media pundits by surprise, was made on 7th June 1994. One of two AM licences went to the London Christian Radio consortium which has the support of leaders of all the main Christian denominations. The licence awarded involves the use of three frequencies and five transmitters -providing the potential for blanket coverage to greater London well beyond the M25 - a catchment area of 10 million people. The station hopes to be on air by late spring, early summer 1995. Peter Meadows, chief executive of London Christian Radio, told Cross Rhythms, "This is an historic decision because this is the very first time a commercial radio licence has been granted for the purposes of providing programmes based on the beliefs and values of the Christian faith. There have been satellite and cable initiatives and also at least one licence to people who were a Christian group but the remit of their programming was community programming. It's also significant because of the size of the licence - it's huge in local licence terms. It'll be one of the top 10 licences. There are local radio stations now whose total adult listenership -if everyone in reach turned on their sets - will be less than our listenership at two o'clock in the morning."

Peter Meadows commented on the type of programming which could be expected on a station. "LCR will be mainly speech based but with some music. It'll be a magazine style format during the main period of transmission which will be 7am to 7pm. Through guests, experts and phone-ins we'll deal with news, current affairs, topical issues and life style issues all from an underlying Christian perspective. Then at times through the day we'll be much more overt in terms of the Christian content, so there'll be an equivalent to Pause For Thought, a morning act of worship, a lunch time reflection. Presented brightly and lightly, with all the things you normally get on a radio station - news, travel, and weather. The travel won't come from Gospel Caravans Incorporated, it will actually come from a recognised travel source, as will our news and so on. On the other side of that main schedule we'll have streams of programming for people with special interests, like a Bible study or a specialised stream of Christian music programmes."

Despite a speech-orientation which could be 65 per cent of programming, London Christian Radio will feature reasonable amounts of contemporary Christian music in its programme as well as specialist music programmes such as a Christian music chart show.

Programme director for the station is Mark Seaman, formerly Network controller for GWR Radio and a former associate of Chris Cole during the pioneering days of the Cross Rhythms Experience on Plymouth Sound. Mark dismissed any suggestion that a Christian oriented station couldn't be viable in a highly competitive market like independent broadcasting. "We've done a lot of research. Of the potential 10 million listening adults that we could attract to this radio service something like eight million claim to belong to one of the main Christian denominations and over two million of them attend church every month and almost one million of them attend one of the 6,250 churches in the London transmission area every week. Now if any other radio station had a potential captive audience of, what shall we say, one to two million people every week they'd be very happy - the leading radio station in London, Capitol, has a listenership of 1.75 million. Now I'm not saying we're going to get two million listeners right away but six months down the line I'd be very surprised if there aren't tens of thousands of people listening to us saying 'that's a very good radio service'. We're targeting initially for seven per cent of the market which is around 700,000 people, that's commercially viable and it won't do the church any harm either.

Of the music content of the station, Mark is confident that there will be plenty of programming to appeal to followers of Christian music. "We're looking very much to break new ground by playing a lot of the good contemporary Christian music around. I look at Cross Rhythms and the amount of music you guys promote each issue and realise this music would appeal to huge areas of the radio audience. We will also be playing secular music. I'd happily play Wet Wet Wet's "Love Is All Around" and I'd give Madonna's "Like A Virgin" a miss.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.