K-LOVE to Buy Chicago Rock Station for $21.5 Million

Attention K-LOVE listeners. Your easy gifts have helped K-LOVE pay $21.5 million for one of the biggest stations in rock. According to Chicago media analyst Robert Felder and this FCC filing, Educational Media Foundation is gobbling up Chicago rock station WLUP-FM 97.9.
As Felder points out in his article, K-LOVE just last year bought Los Angeles rock station “The Sound” and two other stations for $58 million. The Christian music giant pays for their expansion with twice yearly pledge drives.
Felder quotes industry analyst Tom Taylor praising the business strategy of nonprofit EMF:

“They’re very, very sharp, business-wise, and very strategic,” Taylor said of the company headquartered in Rocklin, California, near Sacramento. “They buy based on a formula of x dollars per person under [covered by] the signal.”

It should be obvious then that Chicago is a huge score. Get ready Chicagoland listeners, soon you will be asked to make those easy pledges of $40/month so you can keep K-LOVE on the air. They will need a little less than an entire pledge drive to pay for that station.
What happens when K-LOVE buys all the stations?

Read more about K-LOVE, the manipulative pledge drives, and the blandification of Christian music:

K-LOVE’s Pledge Drive: The Money Behind the Music
Pay a Bill or Give to K-LOVE?
K-LOVE: The Pledge Goal Was About $30-Million
Just Before Pledge Drive, K-LOVE Paid $58-Million for Three Stations
A Very Rich K-LOVE Uses Disaster Relief to Raise More Money
If You Want to Feed the Hungry, Don’t Give (As Much) to a Radio Station
#GivingTuesday: Your $40/Month EZ Gift to K-LOVE/AIR1 Does Not Provide a Child with a Warm Winter Coat
K-LOVE Wants You to Pull Over and Pledge
K-LOVE First Promises Answer to Listener about Executive Compensation Then Fails to Follow Through
Another Indication K-LOVE May Not Need Your Money

Just Before Pledge Drive, K-LOVE Paid $58-Million for Three Stations

Just before the Fall Pledge Drive, K-LOVE purchased three stations from Entercom for $58-million. According to the industry blog, Radioinsight,

EMF [Educational Media Foundation – K-LOVE’s parent company] will acquire Classic Rock “100.3 The Sound” KSWD Los Angeles as well as 92.1 KSOQ Escondido CA (Simulcasts Country http://www.froggy101.com/“>97.3 KSON San Diego) and 95.9 WGGI Berwick PA (Simulcasts Country “Froggy 101” WGGY Wilkes-Barre).

Entercom divested the stations as part of their merger with CBS.
This year K-LOVE has also acquired stations in other markets including Rhode Island, Louisiana, Virginia, and Ohio. These are just a few of the purchases. K-LOVE has been quite active this year. What is clear is that the pledge drives are making it possible for K-LOVE to increase market share not just stay on the air.
More expansion is likely to be in K-LOVE’s future. Radioinsight’s Lance Venta recently wrote:

Educational Media Foundation’s business model portends well to constant expansion. Multiple federal rules allow EMF to take advantage of loopholes that commercial operators do not have the opportunity to do so. As a non-profit EMF can take advantage of tax credits and loopholes. The networks take on the majority of their revenue through listener donations and as the group expands to more markets that brings more potential listeners and donors. With the main-studio waiver that each EMF license holds, the local stations do not exist as anything more than a rack of equipment at the translator site as programming currently all comes from a pair of locales. They don’t need to have a local studio or maintain local staffing cutting down costs.

Local Christian radio is just about gone. Many of these stations have been gobbled up by K-LOVE with no end in sight. The FCC just did away withKLOVE Car the requirement that broadcasters must have a local presence near the location where they have a license to broadcast. K-LOVE has long obtained waivers from this rule in order to broadcast nationally without needing to have a local station. Now they don’t need to get waivers.
The FCC move was opposed by smaller broadcasters who will now be at a disadvantage in their competition with larger corporations. Beyond competition, the concern is that news coverage could be slanted away from local interests.
Regarding K-LOVE and Christian music, K-LOVE already has an out-sized influence on trends in Christian music. Programmers control who has entrance into the market and who stays current. They control so much of the market that artists are at their mercy. Over the years, creativity has been hard to find within the evangelical bubble and I worry that the repetitive pop sounds coming from every market will stifle it even more.

K-LOVE Still Won't Reveal How Much Was Raised During Pledge Drive

Recently, K-LOVE completed their Fall Pledge Drive. It lasted at least one day longer than scheduled because they didn’t reach their goal in theKLOVE Car allotted time. Even though nobody I talked to at K-LOVE seemed to know how much they wanted to raise, they had to keep begging for money to reach it.

How Much Did K-LOVE Make During Pledge Drive?

I tried to find out how much K-LOVE raised during pledge drive. The giant radio organization had a surplus of over $60-million in 2016 so it isn’t clear why they needed to engage in such urgent solicitations.
During the pledge drive I talked to two customer service representatives who said they didn’t know the amount and forwarded me to someone else. I then left a voice mail but received no call in return. I also asked K-LOVE via Twitter and the K-LOVE Twitter manager told me to call the station. I had tried that.
I then asked my question via a private message on the K-LOVE Facebook page:

How much did KLOVE raise during the last pledge drive? If you don’t know exactly, what was the goal?

Someone named “Mike Pastor” (I wonder if that is his real name) wrote back and said:

Please write our CEO, Mike Novak with your financial questions or concerns. You can reach him at CEO @ klove. com. Thanks!

So then I wrote Novak on October 31 and asked my questions. He didn’t write back.

Dear Mr. Novak

Mike Novak, if you are reading, I would still like to know how much you raised during the fund drive. In fact, I think you should tell everyone on your website and on your station. Remember you are a 501(c)3 organization. It is the least you can do.
The least.
This is after your on-air personalities asked people for a week to give their best. Now, you should tell people how much you raised. Don’t you think that’s fair? You featured a woman who gave to K-LOVE instead of paying a bill. Don’t you think you should be transparent and tell people what their sacrifice added up to?
I realize you just acquired new stations in Los Angeles and elsewhere for nearly $58-million so you need some more cash. But shouldn’t you tell the folks why you want it and how much of it they just gave?

Why Won't K-LOVE Disclose the Pledge Drive Goal?

This afternoon K-LOVE is still in pledge drive. It is overtime. They didn’t make their goal yesterday as planned so they will keep begging until listeners pledge enough. My question is: how much is enough? In other words, what is the goal of the pledge drive?
K-LOVE’s website posts the percentage of the goal but not the goal.
KLOVE percent
So I called K-LOVE, posted on Facebook and asked on Twitter: How much total are you trying to raise during this pledge drive?
When I called the station, I talked to two people. Neither person knew the goal. Here is the Twitter exchange:

I then asked why the amount could not be disclosed publicly. So far, there has been no answer.

Why Does K-LOVE Need the Pledge Drive?

I suspect the reason is because the amount is quite large. It may also be because it would raise questions about why the pledge drive is needed. Let’s review some key figures from K-LOVE’s 2016 IRS 990 filing:

Contributions/grants:                       $170,313.699
Surplus (Revenue less expenses):   $63,043,532
CEO Total Compensation:                $      563,767
PR Coaching for pledge drive:         $      355,146
Number of executive staff making over $100k: 53

K-LOVE took in $63-million more than the organization spent in 2016. Does 100% of the pledge goal represent $63-million more than is needed? Given their own giving records, K-LOVE would clearly be fine if their current goal was not completely met. Listeners out there fretting because you fear your station won’t broadcast music if you don’t give should take a hard look at these numbers. K-LOVE does not need your pledge. They want it, but they don’t need it.
It is a huge red flag that K-LOVE won’t disclose the goal for the pledge drive.

Pay a Bill or Give to K-LOVE?

Last night, during K-LOVE’s pledge drive, the on-air personalities played a testimony of a young woman who said she once was at a point where KLOVE Carshe had enough money to pay a bill or give to K-LOVE, but not both.  She chose to give to K-LOVE and believes God blessed her for it. The on-air personalities then praised the woman for her action of giving to K-LOVE instead of paying a bill.
Maybe I am a downer or lack faith but I think it is irresponsible to encourage people to give to K-LOVE rather than pay their bills.
Perhaps things worked out for that woman but it doesn’t always work out so well for others. And let’s remember K-LOVE isn’t your church. Giving to K-LOVE isn’t “giving to the Lord.” K-LOVE is a radio station which uses Christian music to create numerous well paying jobs.
We live in a country where Christian entertainment is everywhere. There is no shortage of means to hear and see Christian music at little or no cost. In many markets, there are several Christian stations available. Most people on even modest means can afford a music player to load Christian music from a variety of sources.
I am not saying there is no place for Christian radio. I am saying that Christians donors should be discriminating and not lose sight of priorities because of constant begging.
As I have pointed out, K-LOVE is actually a rich organization. Let’s review some basic stats from a previous post on K-LOVE:

…a review of K-LOVE’s 2016 IRS 990 form reveals a very rich organization.
Contributions/grants:                       $170,313.699
Surplus (Revenue less expenses):   $ 63,043,532
CEO Total Compensation:                $      563,767
PR Coaching for pledge drive:         $      355,146
Number of executive staff making over $100k: 53
So when you are making your $40/month pledge, remember it takes 1175 of you to make the CEO’s compensation. It takes 740 of you just to pay the consultants who coach the K-LOVE on-air personalities in how to get you to give your money (“we need 10 callers during this song!”).

Paying one’s bills is an obligation which should be honored unless an emergency comes up. Breaking a promise to pay a bill in order to help fund the inflated payroll of a radio station is obviously absurd when one steps away from the incessant manipulation of the K-LOVE on-air personalities.
K-LOVE was slated to finish their fund drive at about 10pm ET last night. They didn’t make it. But because every executive bonus must be covered, the drive will go on and presumably more donor bills will go unpaid.