By Susan Gately - 22 November, 2014
Spirit Radio, Ireland’s only Christian radio station on FM is now broadcasting into Kildare on 92.2 FM.
However, the fact that the station is so close to the national broadcaster’s frequency is a challenge according to CEO, Rob Clarke.
RTE 1 broadcasts nationally on 88 – 90 MHZ.
Spirit’s main bandwidth in Dublin is at 89.9 MHZ.
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) allocates the bandwidths on the basis that if a signal is not interfering with another station, there is room for it to broadcast.
This was how it allocated Spirit the 89.9 bandwidth in Dublin and 89.8 in Limerick.
In the Southeast, the station is at 90.1, in Cork at 90.9 and Galway at 91.7. All these wavelengths fall into the 2FM national bandwidth catchment, 90 to 92 MHZ.
Spirit is trying to roll out their service to the north, northwest and midlands.
“What is holding it up is that our frequency is at the same part of the band as the national broadcaster,” Rob Clarke told CatholicIreland.net.
“The regulatory authority (BAI) have to include RTE in discussions when the frequencies are being discussed and it seems RTE keeps objecting.”
It took a year for the BAI to assign the latest frequency 92.2 for a narrow focus signal covering Naas, Newbridge and Kildare.
Spirit also applied a year ago for a frequency on which to broadcast to Kilkenny, Carlow and Athlone but although they have been in constant discussions with the BAI, no decision has been reached.
When bandwidth to cover broadcasting to an area is allocated, Spirit must pay for the purchase or rental of a mast and site and the price of the satellite downloader, but once that is done, there are no additional costs, said the Spirit CEO who is anxious to roll out the service right across the country.
Spirit is almost four years old, and according to Red C January 2014 figures is attracting a weekly listenership of 206,000 listeners.
Those tuning in come from all strata and backgrounds of society, says Rob Clarke. “There is something about what we do that transcends normal categories.”
While the financial situation of the listener supported station remains a challenge, Mr Clarke says here too things are improving.
“Incrementally we are seeing more and more people becoming monthly donors, and more and more advertisers coming on board.”
Listeners are very loyal, and this loyalty is passed on to advertisers.
The station based in Bray, has a staff of 40, including 20 volunteers.
Rob Clarke says his greatest joy comes from listeners who take the time to get in touch.
“People who say ‘I’ve been listening six months and I’m starting to pray again’. Lots of people say ‘the station is a constant companion in my life’.”
The pledge drives that keep Spirit afloat happen three times a year over a four to five day period.
In one way it’s hard to do, says Mr Clarke, but in another way it really connects the station to its listeners.
“You are talking [in person] to 200 or 300 listeners. That gives you a great ‘connectednesss’. I don’t know if that happens with other stations.”