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Faith FM--London's Christian Radio Station Celebrates 10 years
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By Haydn Jensen

As you scan the FM radio dial in London you'll find some similar options. One unique choice, however, is found at 99.9. That's the frequency for Faith FM--London’s only Christian radio station and the only local radio station that's a registered Canadian charity. With the tagline “Your Inspiration Station”, Faith FM offers a range of music and spoken word programming. Since they have just recently celebrated their 10th anniversary, we thought this would be a good time to take a look at progress they’ve made and see where they're heading.

You may be surprised to learn that one of the earliest driving forces for Christian radio in London was actually an Anglican--Doug Chaplin. Doug was the first station manager. He and a dedicated group of volunteers put in a lot of fundraising and publicity effort to get things off the ground. Originally known as Grace FM, London's first Christian radio station broadcasted at 105.9 with a whopping 10 watt signal. In 2009 it was rebranded as Inspire FM, going to a more easy listening music format. They are part of Sound of Faith Broadcasting, Inc., which also operates Christian radio stations in Woodstock, Kitchener and Brantford. In 2012 Inspire FM increased their power to 500 watts, moved their signal to 99.9 and rebranded themselves as Faith FM. Their first home was the Menear Worrad building at 100 Fullarton and they later moved to the YFC building on Adelaide St. This past summer they relocated again to 120 Wellington St. near South St. to give them much needed additional office space.

Currently, Faith FM employs seven staff either part-time or full time. With their overall music format as adult contemporary Christian, they do feature specialty music programs including jazz, blues, southern gospel, and hip hop. Part of the rationale behind the range is to have something for everyone. This also distinguishes Faith FM from most other stations which typically play the same music all the time. Current Station Manager Dave Wettlaufer points out that Christian music is unique in that it is the only type of music that's identified by the lyrics. He notes that for every kind of music style there exists you will find Christians who do that kind of music.

Also in keeping with the 'something for everyone' idea, you will find spoken word programming for all ages on Faith FM. Bible teaching geared for adult listeners, Adventures in Odyssey stories for kids, arts and conversation shows all combine to provide a wide assortment of interesting listening options on one station.

To maintain a local flavour, Faith FM offers regular London traffic updates, regional news, community events promotions, local interviews and drive time shows hosted by several London radio personalities. Local Christian musicians wanting some radio play are encouraged to forward recordings to the radio station for consideration. The one stipulation is that the music needs to fit the adult contemporary format.

As a registered charity, about one third of Faith FM’s revenue comes from donations; the rest comes from advertising sales and airtime purchased for spoken word programs. Donations come almost entirely through the station’s twice yearly "Share-A-Thon" campaign where listeners are encouraged to send in donations to support Faith FM.

Interestingly, response to the Share-A-Thon efforts also provides the best indication of how many people actually tune in to Faith FM. Most Canadian commercial radio stations with larger budgets pay big bucks for audience measurement services from what was called the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement (BBM) and just recently renamed Numeris. Faith FM, however, does not subscribe. What they can point out to advertising clients and anyone else interested in listener numbers is that listener support has gone up almost five fold since 2011. In 2011, Share-A-Thon donations came in around $3,800. Earlier in 2014, they raised a little over $18,000.

In considering how radio and technology has faced many changes recently with internet stations, satellite radio, podcasts etc., it’s difficult to project what the future of FM radio will be. Dave Wettlaufer recalls receiving notices in the mid 1990’s saying that digital radio was coming soon. He's still waiting. He supposes that FM transmission from terrestrial signal towers will likely one day give way entirely to satellite signals, but Dave feels that Christian radio media and programming has a long future ahead, despite what happens with the technology.

I asked Dave what he as station manager would most like to hear from listeners. His first response was simply to ask listeners, "Are you being inspired by what you hear?” After all, Faith FM calls itself “Your Inspiration Station". Is this true? If you hear something you don’t like, Dave would like to know what it is and why. He’d like to know what programs you especially like and what other things you would like to hear. Dave and the Faith FM team are often encouraged by notes from listeners who share how lyrics from a particular song or how a message heard on air was especially meaningful for that listener. You can offer your feedback by calling the studio line, sending an email or connect through Facebook or Twitter.

In particular, Dave wants to hear from people who know of somebody with an inspiring story to share--especially if that inspiring person is local. They are always looking for good stories to feature on their 'Conversations' talk program, hosted by Marion.

Contact information:
studio line: 519-601-8999