April 12, 2024

Switch to Relevant Radio programming takes Catholic Radio Indy to ‘next level’

Jim Ganley, current board member for Catholic Radio Indy, poses on Sept. 21, 2021, prior to his retirement after 17 years as the station’s general manager. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

Jim Ganley, current board member for Catholic Radio Indy, poses on Sept. 21, 2021, prior to his retirement after 17 years as the station’s general manager. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Natalie Hoefer

When Bob Teipen and his wife Sharon founded Catholic Radio Indy (CRI) 20 years ago, using Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) programming, the goal was “to bring souls to Jesus through a Catholic presence on local airwaves in central Indiana, and keep it there forever, if possible,” he says.

An April 1 switch in programing from EWTN to Relevant Radio “ensures the continuation of that goal,” he adds.

“This is a logical next step for continuing a Catholic radio presence in central Indiana,” adds CRI general manager Gordon Smith. “That’s been our goal all along.”

The decision came down primarily to a difference in what the two networks offer their affiliate stations.

‘We just felt the time had come now’

Partnering with EWTN worked well for CRI since its first station, 89.1 FM, began transmitting in 2004.

Through the support of donors and underwriters, the non-profit effort grew from one station to five in two decades, plus it added non-radio access such as listening online, by app, using a free call-in phone number and via Alexa.

With growth came additional costs, says Smith, particularly for “utilities, internet and tower rental for all of our stations—it’s a big endeavor.”

Meanwhile, with the increase in cost of living for donors and the impact of the COVID pandemic, “Our income had come down to where we were spending money to raise the funds just to keep operating as we were,” says former CRI general manager and current board member Jim Ganley.

“Other Catholic radio stations have run into the same thing. It’s very difficult for any station—religious or otherwise—to operate on public donations alone.”

In looking for the best solution to keep a Catholic radio presence in central Indiana, Relevant Radio seemed to have what CRI needed.

“The business structure of EWTN is to provide free programming to affiliates, but affiliates are in charge of raising their own funds to support their operation,” Smith explains.

“Relevant Radio programming is free, too. But they also help affiliates with expenses and take over fundraising efforts.”

“Both have great programming,” Ganley adds. “It’s just that one model provides most of the expenses, and the other—we’re on our own.”

Teipen says Relevant Radio, which began in 2000 and now has 219 affiliates nationwide, “had been on our radar for some time. We’ve watched them grow over the years, especially when they merged with Immaculate Heart Radio [in 2017].”

The idea of becoming a Relevant Radio affiliate is “an option that we’ve toyed with for some time, but there was never a good reason to just actually make the move,” he says.

“We just felt that the time had come now. They have a much larger staff and can provide a lot more services than what we’re able to do. We looked at the fundraising side, and it looks like they’re able to raise money in a more cost-effective way than we are.”

‘A lot of prayer went into this’

“The CRI board was asked to “think and pray” on making the move,” says Teipen.

The board members took the task to heart.

“I can’t tell you how much we all prayed,” says board member Penny Washer. “A lot of prayer went into this [decision]. We all care so much about keeping Catholic radio [programming] in central Indiana.”

A few board members visited Relevant Radio’s offices in Chicago. Washer says each was “super excited” by what they saw.

“One person who is knowledgeable about finances was very comfortable with what he learned,” she says. “Another who is good with looking at the big picture talked about how [Relevant Radio] would take us [further] and how they just really had it all together.”

In the end, the board’s decision to make the move was unanimous.

“Sometimes when you’re about to make a big decision, you have bells and whistles go off, you second guess,” says Washer. “Nobody on the board experienced that. Everyone came to the same conclusion.

“They have a mission, and it looks like the mission of Catholic Radio Indy, which is to reach as many souls as possible. And they were willing to take on all of our stations and towers, not piecemeal them.”

Washer also lauds the founders and leaders of CRI for all their dedication in the last 20 years.

“I give a lot of kudos to them,” she says. “I don’t think people realize how much it took to start this and keep it going. They all went above and beyond. Bob and his wife [Sharon] put in their own money time and again, and it wasn’t a small amount.

“They’re all selfless souls trying to keep Catholic radio in Indiana.”

‘I feel good about the decision’

Relevant Radio programming operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. While that format does not allow for local shows previously offered on CRI, archived podcasts of those shows are available under the “Podcasts” tab at catholicradioindy.org.

“Most importantly, the Mass is broadcast each weekday and Saturday, and twice on Sunday,” Smith says of the Relevant Radio programming schedule.

Although some listeners might miss certain EWTN radio programs and personalities, he notes other popular shows and hosts that Relevant Radio offers.

Among them are the Patrick Madrid and Drew Mariani shows, a daily Bible study with Father Richard Simon, the Family Rosary Across America with Relevant Radio executive director Father Francis “Rocky” Hoffman, and more.

Some programs “are more geared toward a younger audience than we were able to offer before,” Teipen adds.

Listeners can still tune in to Catholic Radio Indy in all of its existing formats (see below). But those media will now connect to Relevant Radio.

“EWTN has done a great job and served us well,” says Ganley. “We couldn’t have made it without them.

“This [switch to Relevant Radio] is the next level, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the foundation laid during the last 20 years.

“I feel good about the decision, I really do. The chances of Catholic radio being available in central Indiana long into the future is much better because of this step.”

(Listen to Catholic Radio Indy by tuning in to 89.1 FM—west Indianapolis; 89.5 FM—south Indianapolis; 90.9 FM—Hamilton County, Ind.; or 94.3 FM—Lafayette, Ind., 98.3 FM—Anderson, Ind.; by downloading the Catholic Radio Indy app from an app store; by dialing 641-793-5507; by asking Alexa to “play Catholic Radio Indy,” or by clicking “Listen Live Now” at catholicradioindy.org. For Relevant Radio’s programming schedule, go to relevantradio.com/listen/schedule.)

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