Posted by madcityradio.com on April 30, 2009 at 07:16:26:
WNWC celebrates 50 years as religious radio station
By TOM ALESIA, WSJ
On a wing and a prayer in 1959, Madison businessman Paul Stewart launched the city’s first all-religious radio station — at 102.5 FM, a remote frequency not available to people whose radios offered only the AM band.
Precisely 50 years later, the station has immaculate reception. And it maintains the same Christian spirit.
What Stewart started — WRVB ("Wisconsin’s Radio Voice of the Bible") — is now WNWC-FM ("Life 102.5") with one of Madison radio’s most powerful signals, featuring adult contemporary Christian pop music.
In 1973, WRVB was purchased by a Minneapolis-area Christian school, Northwestern College. WNWC manager and midday disc jockey Greg Walters, who joined the station more than 35 years ago, remembers when the station’s playlist favored Southern gospel choirs and did not allow drums.
"We’ve reflected changes in the churches," says Walters, 58, who adds with a laugh: "You’ll definitely hear drums these days."
WNWC is a non-commercial, listener-supported station. Its biggest audience is women ages 30 to 50.
"We’re kind of in the background, I guess," Walters says. "There’s a very strong, loyal audience that we have. Madison is a hard community to appeal to because we’re not the most traditionally based (city). There is high spirituality in Madison, but there is a wide variety of people coming from all different angles."
Mike Powers, a WNWC disc jockey since 1987, says the music isn’t repetitive. "Some songs may have similar themes but it’s communicated in a fresh way," Powers says.
WNWC and its all-talk AM station ("Faith 1190"), added in 1997, tries to appeal to as many denominations as possible.
"We talk about a relationship with Jesus Christ," says Walters. "(On WNWC), we let the music tell the story. People are lonely. People are a little afraid because of the economy. We try to stay friendly and positive."
More than 250 station supporters will mark the station’s 50th anniversary with a banquet at Monona Terrace tonight. Walters says WNWC has been hit by the struggling economy; its pledge drive last fall fell $250,000 short of its goal.
"Our mission is to draw people to have personal faith in Christ and help them grow in that faith. That’s why we’ll always be here," Walters says, "as long as God wants us here."
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