The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has finally released information about why its radio show “Issues, Etc.” was cancelled. According to the statement’, the church-owned radio station KFUO has been losing money on the show, and viewership numbers were not enough to justify the expense:
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. . . .
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. . . .
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.
The figures–which are three years old–do not include, however, the main way people listen to radio on the internet: not streaming but downloading. In the last three-month quarter, the show was downloaded 480,000 times. (See this for the number-crunching and this for a comparison of “Issues” downloads compared to KFUO’s other shows to gauge its relative popularity.) Figuring the cost of the show as given in the LCMS statement, this calculation finds the cost comes to 13 cents per download, less than the cost of a printed flyer.
For more responses and information about the grass roots uprising over the “Issues,” go here.
Meanwhile, here is an attempt to privatize “Issues.”
Also, fans suffering “Issues” withdrawal should know about Radical Grace, a similar radio and downloadable program that is already privately operated but hits the same themes as “Issues.”