Cedar Grove's Praise Radio is on the Air

March, 17, 2019-by William C. Walker
The LPAM Network
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Recently I had a chance to talk with the owner of a relatively new Part 15 AM station in Cedar Grove, Wisconsin by the name of Jon DeMaster. Praise Radio 1620 has its offices in Belgium, WI and serves listeners in the Cedar Grove area with its AM signal as well as world wide on the world wide web. The question and answer session follows.
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"Jon, how did you first become interested in radio broadcasting? Can you give us some background into your history in radio?"

I suppose that depends on how far back you want me to go. Even when I was young, I loved radio. I remember setting up small “studios” in my bedroom with a little 5 channel Radio Shack mixer and table-top cassette players to be a DJ. Radio was always fascinating to me.

I really became interested in broadcasting when I was installing a telephone system at WXER radio. The afternoon jock (Scott King) was in the middle of his afternoon show, and it was fascinating to me. I loved watching the interaction between the DJ and the listeners, and all of the technical things that make radio work.

I started doing weekend voice tracks for that station, and then a live mid-day show. Like everyone in the business, I worked at several different stations, doing Hot AC, board-opping NASCAR races on a classic country station, News for our local news/talk station, afternoon drive and production for a 100,000 watt Christian station (that would later be consumed by EMF). I also got the opportunity to anchor news for a few networks - it’s amazing - and scary to see what technology allows us to do.

Right now I’m a news director at WHBL Radio in Sheboygan, I love it - but have always wanted to bring back “local” - and in a world of stations owned and operated by consultants, rotations, and sales teams, Part 15 AM seems to be the best way to make radio great again. Because - yes, we use computers and automation, but it’s not sterile and cookie-cutter as required by consultant law. That’s why we launched Praise Radio - it will bring local back to our community - one transmitter at a time!
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"Jon, are there any people involved with the day to day operations of Cedar Grove Radio? Do you have any other On Air personnel or people working in the background?"

We have a few people in the community that are involved in the station at this time. Our youth pastor will come to the studios when we need "commercials" or other community announcements recorded. Our Senior Pastor is on every Sunday. I force my kids (they love it) to record some of the imaging for the station, and our Freshman takes care of the Community Calendar announcements each week.

On the air, I take care of the mornings...
our Imaging guy sends voice tracks to me for our middays
and the afternoons are open. Our weekend programming features "The Gospel Greats" program with Paul Heil. The Christian station in our community used to air that every weekend, and it had a large following - but when they merged with another radio group, the Gospel greats disappeared from their lineup. We've brought it back.

Because the station has only been on the air for a few months, we're still working to generate interest and work out various technical issues - but have announcements on the air and on social media inviting people to become involved in the "on air" part of the station.

The goal is to not have voice tracks on the station - We're working with our youth pastor to get teens involved - and I know our pastor is hoping that we can start getting some local talk shows on the air. It's a work in progress - there are no set "rules" - if we want to break from music for an hour or several hours at a time to do something local - we embrace that... and it's the goal!

As far as "behind the scenes" - I've been working hard for the past few months to learn Linux, so we can run the station with Rivendell. It's an amazing piece of software, but can be a challenge for non-linux folks (I am still very green with Linux) - but very early in the process, a young man named Ryan Kingham contacted me and has volunteered his time setting up the computer system, networking the studios with the equipment at the church, and has been an all-around blessing along the way.
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"Jon, do you have any immediate plans to expand your reach with a second transmitter in another location outside of Cedar Grove? Or do you just plan to cover the existing community at this point in time?"

It's interesting - the initial plan was to install 1-2 transmitters to serve the Cedar Grove area, and this whole station was going to be built inside of the church. One computer, a small board, a few mics, and that'd be it. But we let the plan evolve, and we ended up going in an entirely different direction.

As we continued to discuss the goals, it became clear to us that the community would be best served if I operated the station outside of the church - we want this to be something for the entire community - and not just something that THAT ONE CHURCH is running - leaving other churches feeling left out. I think sometimes that happens - churches get so into who they are, and keep out other churches, that it becomes more of a competition. At the end of the day, the goal is to reach people with a message of Hope.... and whether you're from a Presbyterian church, a Reformed Church, or a Lutheran Church - you should feel like you're part of a body of believers - and not segregated by the name plastered on the side of the building.

So with those things rolling through our minds, the thought process completely changed the way we decided to structure the entire system. Instead of having a computer and a microphone at church, we moved all of the equipment to my studios roughly 1 mile from the transmitter - and designed a "network" so that any church that wants to duplicate this in their communities can do the same thing we've done - without all of the headaches that come along with keeping it on the air.

I know it sounds like a "small version of K-Love" - but we've designed this so that if another church sees a need in their community, they can install a transmitter, get a Linux computer connected, and with some simple configuration, with our help can take our "Feed" (Praise & Worship Music) but then break away and do their own thing whenever they want to. We wanted to make what our church thought was impossible - possible to do anywhere - and for the cost of a transmitter, a bit of setup, a small computer, and a board if they'd like) any church anywhere can have Praise & Worship music and a local presence in their communities.

Locally, we have 3 more communities we are going to install transmitters in - and if there's continued financial support, have a list of 4-5 additional towns that could be covered. We're "thinking big" with Part 15 broadcasting.