By Susan Gately - 30 January, 2014
Spirit Radio is three years old this month, and according to CEO Rob Clarke, the Christian radio station is going from strength to strength, even through challenging times.
The station with ’Passion for Life’ has gained a 5% listenership across the nation, and 6% in urban areas, according to a recent Red C poll. That would represent 200,000 listeners, but Rob believes a more accurate figure is around 165,000 listeners. The station is not included in the list of radio stations surveyed by the JNLR (Joint National Listenership Research) which gathers listenership figures for the industry.
When the station opened in January 2011 an estimated 50,000 people were tuning in.
Spirit began life in Ballsbridge, but a year ago moved to its current offices in Bray where they share premises with East Coast Radio. The station has a staff of forty, most of whom are part time, and twenty volunteers. It costs around €500,000 a year to keep Spirit on the air, with 80% of its income coming from three pledge drives it runs each year. The balance of 20% comes from advertising.
“Our advertising is growing slowly,” says Rob Clarke. “We offer advertisers great rates, and I think they recognise that our listenership is ‘intentional’, and they [the listeners] will support people who advertise with us,” he told CatholicIreland.
He says the pledge drives are highlights of Spirit’s year. “It is the time when we really hear from listeners. Over the five days of the drive, we could be talking to 200 people.”
Spirit manages to appeal to a broad spectrum of the Christian community. “I don’t know if it is happening anywhere else in the world. You have Catholic Stations, you have Evangelical stations. What we’re doing crossing the Catholic – Evangelical divide is very special.”
They purposely try to “keep programming on common ground in a space where everybody is comfortable,” says Rob Clarke. “Discovering that Christians from a wide range of backgrounds can work together is a great joy.” The mix of Gospel rock, news, interview, chat shows, and ‘Thoughts for the day’ appears to be working. Mary and Paul recently wrote from Wexford: “Brilliant station ; most professional; and each one of ye are truly needed and thank God for ye. We are not the greatest at contacting the station unless there is a slim chance of winning a prize! But your station is the only one that’s being aired in our house since you launched !!! Should someone change the station…. well there is blue murder…..I know were not very christian, but we are working on it…”
James in Belturbet recently wrote “Hello Spirit Radio. Only discovered your fantastic station last week, and it’s just what I need in my life right now. I’m going through a difficult time at the moment and praying to Jesus for the strength and grace to get through it. I love the song with the line ‘And Everybody Said Amen’, could u play it for me please?”
Niall discovered Spirit driving to work. “Some might say by accident; I don’t agree, the Lord makes no mistakes.” His father was diagnosed with cancer. “It was Gods provision through the radio station that helped me continue in my work and at home with my family when circumstances were often fairly painful. Days passed and Dad went home and I found a new member of my family sounds strange but true..Spirit Radio.”
International boxer Katie Taylor was the face of Spirit when it launched, and has agreed to lead a new campaign in the coming months. Meanwhile Rob Clarke is happy with how the station is progressing. “I’m enjoying it. It is a thrill to feel ourselves in a position where you can touch the life of so many people.”