March 27, 2008
Dear Christian Friend:
Last week the decision was made to discontinue the “Issues, Etc.” program on KFUO-AM Radio, a ministry owned and operated by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). A brief statement was posted soon after on KFUO-AM's website citing programmatic and stewardship (business) reasons for this decision.
Following the discontinuation of the program, some KFUO-AM listeners asked for more information as to why “Issues, Etc.” had been ended. Detailed reasons are not usually provided when making program changes, and I intend to continue our policy and practice not to publicly discuss specific personnel matters. However, I do want to provide additional information regarding some of the significant challenges we faced prior to the discontinuation of the program and to respond to the inquiries of those who were particularly fond and appreciative of “Issues, Etc.”
In fiscal year 2007-08, KFUO-AM’s operating deficit was $620,698. Since 2001, the accumulated deficits at the station have been in excess of $3.5 million. The LCMS budget, entrusted to our care by members of our Synod’s congregations, has absorbed these shortfalls for years. After long and prayerful consideration, it became clear that measures had to be taken to stop the ongoing, staggering losses.
Although some are under the impression that “Issues, Etc.” was profitable and self-supporting, the fact is the program lost approximately $250,000 in the last fiscal year. While airing for only 18 percent of KFUO-AM’s programming week, “Issues” accounted for more than 40 percent of the station’s total deficit. These figures are based on the audited financial statements of the LCMS.
Over the years, every effort has been made to cut expenses at KFUO-AM. At the same time, particularly in the past year, extraordinary measures were taken to bolster the financial support of the station. A sizable portion of those efforts focused on assisting “Issues, Etc.,” the most costly program on the AM schedule. Unfortunately, these measures have not solved the problem. As of February 29th, two-thirds into the current fiscal year, KFUO-AM was on pace to suffer heavy losses again.
Some may also be under a misapprehension about the size of the “Issues” audience. In 2005, station management decided it could no longer justify paying for expensive ratings reports in light of the predictably low and static nature of KFUO-AM’s audience numbers. At the time, a blending of the spring 2004 and spring 2005 “books” showed an average listening audience during the “Issues” Monday-Friday timeslot of 1,650. There is no indication these numbers have grown appreciably since.
As for the audio streaming of “Issues, Etc.” via the Internet, the numbers are similarly low. During the last full month (February 2008) for which we have reports, the average number of live, streaming listeners during the “Issues” Monday-Friday timeslot was 64.
On Sunday nights, when the first hour of “Issues” was syndicated in a number of markets (an opportunity for which, during the past fiscal year, the LCMS actually paid $66,000 in broadcast fees), and where the second hour was available only on the Internet, the peak number of online listeners on the KFUO stream was 39.
Sadly, very difficult financial conditions sometimes require decisions that are not popular among all affected. In the case of KFUO-AM, the time had come when good stewardship of the church’s funds required a decision that meaningfully curtailed the deep, ongoing losses at the station. Ending the costs associated with “Issues, Etc.” was the only viable option, and the decision to do this was prayerfully and contemplatively made.
I am sorry that those who enjoyed “Issues” are disappointed, but I have made the show’s archives available, and I respectfully hope that all listeners will support the ongoing radio ministry of our beloved Synod.
Sincerely in Christ,
David L. Strand
Board for Communication Services
[I notice that there was no mention of the number of DOWNLOADS of the show, which seems to me to be one of the more frequent ways folks listened to it. I wonder if Mr. Strand would be willing to share those particulars?]