KFUO (AM)

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KFUO-AM
KFUO logo.png
Broadcast area Greater St. Louis
Branding WorldWide KFUO
Slogan We Are Where You Are
Frequency 850 kHz AM (HD Radio)
First air date December 14, 1924
Format Christian Talk
Power 5,000 watts day
Class B
Owner Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod
KFUO-AM tower and studios on the campus of Concordia Seminary, April 2007

KFUO (850 AM) is the longest continually operating AM radio station in the United States. Owned and operated by The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS), KFUO-AM boasts an array of audio resources from worship services to inspirational music to in-depth study of God's Word through programs including "The Bible Study," "Ask the Pastor," "Studio A," and "Law & Gospel."[1] KFUO also offers syndicated short-form programs like Dr.Paul Devantier's "By The Way," Dr. Mary Manz-Simon's "Front Porch Parenting," and Concordia Seminary President Dr. Dale Meyer's "The Meyer Minute." KFUO also carries 30-minute programs each weekday from Focus on the Family.[2]

History[edit]

Among those designated as founders of KFUO-AM were the Rev. Prof. J. H. C. Fritz, the Rev. Richard Kretzschmar and the Rev. Dr. Walter A. Maier. Other Lutheran Institutions connected to the start-up of the station included Concordia Seminary, the Walther League, the Lutheran Laymen's League, and the St. Louis Lutheran Publicity Association.[3] On October 26, 1924, KFUO went on the air for the first time, broadcasting to St. Louisans the cornerstone-laying ceremony for the Clayton campus of Concordia Seminary, which would house the station's permanent studio.[4] When KFUO-AM officially went on the air Dec. 14 of that year, the first broadcast originated from the attic of one of the seminary buildings.[5] Three years later, on May 29, 1927, the studio was dedicated.[6] KFUO-AM became a Synodical enterprise in 1927. A sister FM station, KFUO-FM (eventually to be known as "Classic 99") was added in 1948.

During the 1930s, when KFUO-AM and KSD (now KTRS (AM)) shared the 550 kHz frequency, the stations petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to give them separater frequencies. At that time, KFUO-AM was also asking the FCC to increase its transmitter power and hours of operation. As a result, the FCC moved KFUO-AM to the 830 kHz frequency in 1940, and then to its present 850 kHz frequency a year later. The following September, the FCC increased the station's power to 5,000 watts from its previous 1,000 watts of power.[7] During this time, KFUO-AM also began broadcasting The Lutheran Hour which is still heard on over 700 stations worldwide.

In 1997 the FCC charged that the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod had violated the FCC's Equal Employment Opportunity requirements by not hiring enough minorities and women and by requiring a knowledge of Lutheran doctrine in order to be hired by KFUO and KFUO-FM. After losing appeals within the FCC, the LCMS appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. That court found, in Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod v. FCC (1998), that the FCC's requirements were unconstitutional.[8]

Digital age[edit]

KFUO-AM officially launched its Web site, http://kfuo.org, in 1998, offering listeners a live audio stream of its broadcast. Program archives on the site were spotty until the station began formally archiving its programs in 2003. In 2004, KFUO-AM made another digital leap by launching its HD station, the first in Missouri.

Awards[edit]

In 2000, KFUO won a "Gold Angel" award at the 23rd annual "International Angel Awards" ceremony held in Hollywood, California. The award is the highest honor bestowed by Excellence in Media, a Hollywood-based organization devoted to promoting morality in film, television, video, radio, and print.[9]

Cancellation and return of Issues, Etc.[edit]

During Holy Week 2008 (March 18) the theological talk show, Issues, Etc., was abruptly discontinued from KFUO-AM's program line-up after 15 years on the air. Issues Etc. was the most popular program produced by KFUO-AM and the only one with a national audience. The show was distributed to Christian radio stations across the U.S. In each city outside the St. Louis area the program was sponsored by local LCMS congregations, not by KFUO-AM or the national LCMS office. The producer and host of Issues, Etc. were fired with no explanation.

Three weeks after the cancellation KFUO-AM management issued an official announcement citing programmatic and stewardship (business) reasons as the cause for cancellation.[10] Management claimed that the station was running deficits into the hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, that Issues, Etc. (the most expensive program to produce at KFUO-AM) was contributing significantly to those deficits, and that the Synod no longer had the ability to subsidize or overcome these shortfalls.[11] Unfortunately, there is no way to verify management's claims because KFUO-AM has never had a policy of making its financial information available to the public.[12]

In the weeks following a group of some 50 to 60 people suspecting ulterior motives for the cancellation held a demonstration at the LCMS International Center (April 14, 2008) and an online petition to reinstate the show collected more than 7,000 signatures.[13][14]

Issues Etc. resumed operations as an independent listener-supported broadcast on June 30, 2008 on another St. Louis radio station, KSIV, and through on-line internet streaming at http://issuesetc.org. Radio stations in five other states now carry the program live and podcast downloads are distributed through the show's website. In February 2009 the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod officially gave up its legal claim to the trademark name "Issues Etc." which it had allowed to lapse in 1999. The trademark name is now owned by Lutheran Public Radio, the current production company of Issues. Etc.

On March 13, 2012, Issues, Etc. returned to KFUO-AM in a new arrangement whereby Lutheran Public Radio pays the station for broadcast airtime. With the return to KFUO-AM the show is again able to reach a large local audience. At the same time, Issues Etc. continues to maintain complete control of its own financial matters and program content as gained following the 2008 split.

Current status[edit]

The station accepts pledges from businesses, individuals, congregations, and organizations which go directly to the station's owner, the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. The Synod subsidizes the station as needed. KFUO-AM derives only limited revenue from sponsorship messages and retains its non-commercial status.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ See KFUO-AM Program Guide
  2. ^ See KFUO-AM Program Guide
  3. ^ See KFUO History - STLRadio.com
  4. ^ See Concordia Historical Institute - Today in History
  5. ^ See KFUO History - STLRadio.com
  6. ^ See Concordia Historical Institute - Today in History
  7. ^ See KFUO History - STLRadio.com
  8. ^ Carney, David. "DC Appeals Court Rules Against FCC in Lutheran Church Case". 
  9. ^ See Concordia Historical Institute - Today in History
  10. ^ See An updated statement on Issues, Etc.
  11. ^ See An “Issues, Etc.” Q&A
  12. ^ http://www.ministrywatch.com/profile/jubilee-network.aspx
  13. ^ See 'Issues, Etc.' cancellation draws responses
  14. ^ See Missouri-Synod Lutherans protest cancellation of radio show

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°38′20″N 90°18′57″W / 38.63889°N 90.31583°W / 38.63889; -90.31583