Christian radio is a category of radio formats that focus on transmitting programming with a Christian message. In the United States, where it is most established, many such broadcasters play popular music of Christian influence, though many programs have talk or news programming covering associated topics that can have an economic or a political angle to them.
Brokered programming is a significant portion of most US Christian radio stations' revenue, with stations regularly selling blocks of airtime to evangelists seeking an audience. Another revenue stream is solicitation of donations, either to the evangelists who buy the air time or to the stations or their owners themselves. (In order to further encourage donations, less scrupulous evangelists may emphasize the prosperity gospel, in which they preach that tithing and donations to the ministry will result in financial blessings from God.) Although the solicitation of donations and the sale of airtime may resemble a commercial enterprise, such actions do not necessarily constitute a call to action, and thus this does not forbid them from airing on noncommercial licensed stations in the US. A minority of stations (almost all of them music stations) use the traditional model for music radio and allow traditional commercial advertising.
Numerous religious broadcasters own a large number of their own stations. In the USA religious radio stations are exempt from certain rules requiring radio stations to have some local operations, which allows them to have massive networks of transmitters covering far larger areas than a radio station would otherwise be allowed.
Most Christian radio stations transmit a mixture of Christian music and Christian talk and teaching.
Christian music radio outlets mirror commercial radio in many ways, and music in a variety of different genres is available. Many stations play primarily gospel music (whether Black Gospel or Southern Gospel) or worship music, while others play all formats of contemporary Christian music including rock and roll, pop, rock music, rap, country, and alternative. Many artists within the Christian music industry criticize Christian radio for only playing "safe" music, and not taking enough chances on new artists, or in some cases older artists, that may not be as appealing to the largely conservative Gospel Music Association.
Popular artists on Christian radio stations with this format include Third Day, Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, Mercy Me, Steven Curtis Chapman, Carman, Sandi Patty, TobyMac, Relient K, Chris Tomlin, Switchfoot, Colton Dixon, and the Bill Gaither Trio. Note that this short list runs the gamut of Christian music formats from pop to rock to inspirational.
Many secular radio stations devote some of their weekend programming to Christian music; for example, Black Gospel programming is common on Sundays on many stations featuring the Urban Contemporary format.
Christian talk, radio drama, sermons
Other Christian stations will present a no-music format that features talk radio-style programming (sometimes including live radio call-in shows) and/or long-form "preaching and teaching" programs. Notable examples include Focus on the Family with host Jim Daly and Living Way with pastor Jack Hayford; an example of an inspirational program is Moments of Melody. Radio drama programs, long dead in most other radio formats, continue to be transmitted on Christian radio; notable examples include long-running Adventures in Odyssey and Unshackled! and relative newcomers such as Down Gilead Lane and A Work in Progress.
American and International availability
Most Christian radio stations as well as programmers based in the United States are members of the (Christian) National Religious Broadcasters organization; there are reportedly 1,600 Christian broadcasting organizations in the U.S. They range from single stations to expansive networks. It is common for religious broadcasters to purchase many small broadcast translators to create networks that stretch across large regions. Moody Radio was the first example, and still one of the largest, though most of its stations broadcast stand-alone programming as well as network feeds. Z88.3 in Orlando, Florida, the WAY-FM Network, K-LOVE, Air 1, The Joy FM, and the Bible Broadcasting Network are other notable examples.
Christian radio expanded in the early twenty-first century. It became available in the United Kingdom with changes to broadcasting regulations. Premier Christian Radio is based in the London area where it is available on medium wave and DAB; elsewhere, it is available digitally or by Internet. United Christian Broadcasters is an international broadcasting and media company; radio stations are based in Albania, Australia, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Christian radio programs
- Adventures in Odyssey, a scripted radio comedy/drama for children produced by Focus on the Family
- Back to the Bible with Woodrow M. Kroll
- CT-20, Canada's Top 20 Contemporary Christian Countdown.
- MAD Christian Radio Show, an internationally syndicated Christian rock program
- Christian media
- Christian pop culture
- Religious broadcasting - information on UK-based Christian TV & Radio, as well as overview of US-based networks.
- Category:Christian radio stations
- List of Christian radio stations in Canada
- Lochte, Bob (2005). Christian Radio: The Growth of a Mainstream Broadcasting Force. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company. ISBN 0-7864-2239-4.