Career Capsule: Steve is originally from Western Canada. Steve didn’t catch the radio bug until he was a student at the University of Saskatchewan. Two years later he enrolled in a radio course at Western Academy Broadcasting College in Saskatoon.
Over the next three years he would bounce from station to station working many different formats across Western Canada with the ultimate goal of landing in Christian radio. That dream became a reality in 2001 when the Afternoon Drive position opened up at CHRI 99.1 FM, a Christian radio station in Ottawa. Steve had always been a fan of LIFE 100.3 and kept in touch with LIFE 100.3 Founder, Scott Jackson, for the next three years. On August 11, 2003 Steve accepted a position at LIFE and began what has been a life changing and exciting 16 plus years.
Steve, tell us what’s new at Life 100.3 and with you… etc?
At the end of April, Scott Jackson, President, GM, and Founder stepped aside. He is still involved in some departments and is available for consulting. However, he is no longer responsible for the day-to-day responsibilities. I took over as General Manager on May 1.
How is the current crisis an “opportunity” for Christian Radio?
As an essential service, our team has jumped at the opportunity to inform our listeners with the information they need to know. We have opened up our phone lines to allow listeners to share their struggles, but also to share what God has been doing in their life throughout the pandemic. It has been an opportunity to serve our listeners, donors, and clients in a unique way. Right from the start, we brought in local pastors to shepherd and encourage our listeners. Even though they have been figuring out their own responsibilities on the fly, they have been willing to serve our community whenever possible. We have been very grateful for that.
After the Coronavirus pandemic passes, what do you think will be the lasting effects (changes) if any to Christian Radio?
I’m not sure I would have said this back in January, but I think we got sick of Netflix. After a few weeks of binge watching shows, we had enough. I have a friend who described listening to the radio like this, “It is like I get to have a friend sitting beside me all day.” You can be working, in the car, or sitting on your deck, but have the radio on the background. You can do the same thing with Spotify, but without the conversation. I think we missed the conversation. You can find music almost anywhere these days, but the conversation is missing. Don’t get me wrong, no one wants to hear Ronnie Radio talking about another 35 songs in a row…but the conversation, the connection is something we can provide with engaging personalities and content. Christian Radio doesn’t give us an excuse to do a poor job of this. We should be front and center delivering that engaging content complete with the message of hope…with some fun thrown in.
What is the best special advice you can give to air talent during this crisis?
Listeners are hearing the worst of the worst on every form of media. In Christian radio, we have the opportunity to present hope. That doesn’t mean we ignore and avoid our Public Health Departments, but that we would choose to remind listeners that our hope should have deep roots in the Bible. I remember Mark Hall of Casting Crowns talk about his cancer diagnosis. He said his faith never wavered because his roots were deep in the Word Of God. That’s our message to the listener.
How is Christian Radio in Canada differ from the US?
The biggest difference is that we were late to the Christian Radio party. Until 1993, it was illegal to have a Christian Radio station in Canada. Once the CRTC (similar to the FCC in the US) overturned the decision, Christian Radio stations started popping up all over the country. The biggest challenge is tracking down experienced radio people who have a passion for Christian Radio. We are also required to play a certain percentage of “Canadian Music” in our playlist. That is often a surprising requirement for our US neighbors.
Is fundraising the same or different for Canada Christian Radio than US… please explain?
At LIFE, we are unique in that our license allows us to be listener supported, but we also have the ability to sell advertising. Not every Christian Radio station in Canada is the same. Some only sell advertising, and some are only listener supported. In our case, both are extremely valuable. When it comes to fundraising, we go all out for Sharathon. We start planning 4-5 months in advance. We plan the theme, promotion, music, features, invite local pastors, artists, volunteers, have live studio performances, etc. It is a complete team effort.
Some say the more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?
Since Christian radio is still relatively new in Canada, we do not have much overlap at all.
In your opinion, where will future Christian radio air talent come from?
First off, previous radio experience is extremely helpful. However, when that isn’t possible, talent comes from everywhere. One member of our morning show arrived with previous experience in Christian radio; his co-host was a Youth Pastor for 11 years. Both bring their own unique perspectives to the show and have great chemistry. We have pulled talent from all different kinds of professions and provided the training they needed to get up to speed. We might think this is exclusive to Christian Radio, but Mainstream Radio continues to take chances too with former athletes, actors, local comedians, etc. As long as you have the patience and persistence to train, they can turn into some special talent on the air.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
I started listening to a station in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan called C-95. It was Pat O’Brien, Lori, The Coach, and Rambling Dave. They seemed to really enjoy what they did, had fun, and I was officially hooked. As I travelled and worked in Mainstream Radio, I enjoyed listening to Power 92 in Edmonton, Alberta with Gary James and Audie Lynds. The station had hot jingles and id’s with energetic dj’s, fun contests, and everything was presented in a tight package. Edmonton was also my first experience with Christian radio. I was scanning the radio and it stopped on am930 The Light. It took or minute or so, but I recognized that I was listening to a Christian song, Avalon – Testify To Love. I had always wanted to work in Christian Radio, but this made it official. To be able to hear music that God could use to change lives on the radio, was something I couldn’t wait to be a part of.