Interesting goings on with KFUO-FM

I have long stated my agnosticism on the sale of KFUO-FM. Yes this annoys my friends on either side of the sell, don’t-sell divide — but I can see great arguments for or against.

But that doesn’t keep me from having many opinions about how the sale is being handled. I wanted to share with you the rather fascinating editorial in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It’s a fine editorial from the perspective of supporters of keeping a classical music format, but there’s one quibble:

Board members also must decide whether the contemporary Christian format fits better with the church’s goals than its longtime role as a pillar of the arts community.

Technically, that’s not true. The board will have no control over the format of the station. They only have control over whether or not to sell. Anything could happen the moment they sell it — the new owners could turn around and sell it again or they could change format on a dime.

What’s more interesting to me personally is the amazing amount of effort being expended by some at Synod, Inc. to “save” Classic 99.

The Synod’s PR office has shown a surprising — for them — aggressiveness in drumming up media attention on behalf of Classic 99. Compare that with last year when the same bureaucracy canceled the best radio show the LCMS ever produced — in terms of delivering the Gospel — to save, allegedly, $200K.

And yet now, more than a year and $5 million in “negative variances” later, these same boards are unwilling to part with an unprofitable secular Classical music station, even though selling it would net a financially strapped synod $18 million.

Isn’t that kind of odd? Both financially and relating to the mission of the church?


Interesting goings on with KFUO-FM — 6 Comments

  1. First, the station is actually profitable. But the LCMS doesn’t need a steady flow of revenue just now.

    Second, the $18M would be financed: JoyFM would only be giving a down payment. This is in comparison with the Radio Arts Board, which can swing $8M in cash, and would maintain the integrity of one of the cultural cornerstones of St. Louis.

    The station isn’t worth what it was a year ago.

  2. Jared, upon what do you base your statement that Classic 99 is profitable? If it were profitable, why did Circle of Friends have to raise $800K to keep it operating? Why does the Treasurer of synod maintain that the station hasn’t turned a profit in 6 years?

    Are yo actually saying that the LCMS is turning down the profits of Classic 99? The LCMS has borrowed $15 million of designated gifts just to pay bills, and is reporting a $5 million operating deficit. Where is your evidence for your assertion?


  3. Secular or not, I will miss it. The FM was my refuge when the AM lost issues.

    The FM station meant a soothing drive and was a good place to rally the arts in St. Louis.

  4. Michael,

    If the St. Louis arts community can come up with a reasonable offer, they can always counter Joy FM and keep classical music in St. Louis.

    I’ve always advocated Circle of Friends and the St. Louis arts community purchasing the signal. It makes far more sense than LCMS ownership.


  5. Directors proceed on KFUO, endorse malaria project
    By Roland Lovstad

    A special committee and the chief financial officer have been authorized by the LCMS Board of Directors to continue with multiple negotiations toward the possible sale of KFUO-FM.

    Meeting Aug. 20-21 in St. Louis the Board also endorsed the Synod’s participation in the Lutheran Malaria Initiative and heard reports that the 2008-09 fiscal year ended June 30 with a positive balance.

    In acting on the KFUO-FM matter, the Board adopted the following:

    “Resolved, that special counsel in conjunction with the chief financial officer proceed with the multiple negotiations reported to the Board in executive sessions, and be it further

    “Resolved, that the KFUO Committee of the Board be hereby instructed to continue to investigate the uninterrupted broadcast of the 99.1 classical format in the St. Louis market; and be it finally

    “Resolved, that the KFUO Committee of the Board be hereby authorized by the Board and empowered to determine in its absolute and sole discretion if and when the corporation shall enter into an asset purchase agreement for the sale of KFUO-FM and upon what terms and conditions approximating those reported to the Board and to cause same to be done without further action by the Board.”
    The KFUO Committee special counsel, Kermit Brashear, a member of the Board, was authorized to serve as the Board’s spokesman regarding the process. KFUO-FM, which primarily broadcasts classical music, has been owned and operated by the Synod since 1948.

    The action follows the recommendation of a task force appointed by the Board in early 2008 to study the role of KFUO-FM and KFUO-AM and the best use of those assets in the Synod’s mission. In November the task force recommended the sale of KFUO-FM, with a majority of the proceeds to be placed in a fund designated for “proactive ministry utilizing advanced media” such as video and audio streaming via the Internet or satellite radio to reach audiences beyond the St. Louis market. The task force did not recommend the sale of KFUO-AM.

  6. With the permission of Dr. Paul Mair I am posting his reply as to the sale of KFUO FM

    Paul L. Maier, Ph.D., Litt.D, LL.D.
    Department of History
    Western Michigan University
    Kalamazoo, MI 49008

    (269) 387-4816 maier (at) Fax: (269) 387-4651


    October 8, 2009

    Selling KFUO-FM was a clear violation of Christian ethics. Primed with wrong information, the LCMS Board of Directors that authorized the sale ignored an appeal by 41 principal church leaders not to sell KFUO-FM, disregarded crucial ethical issues involved in betraying the trust of KFUO’s founders and supporters, and has now sold a vital mission of our church, gaining proceeds to which it was legally but not morally entitled. This was not Synod’s investment, but that of listeners across 85 years who prayed, worked, and gave sacrificially to support KFUO. Did the matter of basic ethics ever occur to board members, the obligation to do right rather than wrong? And in a church board, no less?

    And all this while destroying one of our country’s great, pioneer radio stations and alienating the cultural community of St. Louis — and the world.
    Moreover, radio experts wonder why the Board relegated so important a decision to a small committee (one which avoided other options for Lutheran ownership), and are mystified that it would sell such an asset at the worst possible time economically. They deem the sales agreement “dead on arrival,” since the millions claimed in the sale have little chance of reali- zation. Joy-FM, the purchaser, is non-commercial and already owes $600,000 on its two “rim-shot” stations. One cannot escape the conclusion that this was one of the worst decisions ever made by any board in the history of our church body.

    Paul L. Maier
    Second Vice-President
    The Lutheran Church—Mo. Synod

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