The Catholic Radio Association was founded to serve the needs of all in Catholic radio and to make Catholic radio a more efficacious instrument in the Church’s work of evangelization. In fact, the Catholic Radio Association is the only apostolate in Catholic radio that does not exist for its own growth, per se, but for the growth of its members.
The Association serves as the trade association for Catholic radio. It seeks to unite all involved in Catholic radio, including stations, program providers, and Church Hierarchy. As a trade association, the CRA works to advance the cause of Catholic radio by providing member services, facilitating the sharing of knowledge and resources, and speaking with one voice for its members. The Association’s membership includes virtually all Catholic radio apostolates in the country, program providers, and several (arch)dioceses. Over the past 15 years the Association has helped Catholic radio grow at an average rate of over one new station per month. A current Low Power FM expansion effort could result in over 100 new stations and 10 million new souls reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
The purpose of the Catholic Radio Association is to serve the Church in its mission to bring all people to holiness in Jesus Christ by assisting and uniting Catholic radio apostolates to reach more people with efficacious programming.
Need for the Association
Catholic radio is crawling out of infancy. Over 300 stations across the United States now broadcast full or part time Catholic programming. This is an increase from only a handful a few years ago. As the Bishops of North America utilize Catholic radio more readily, the apostolate should experience continued phenomenal growth in the next several years.
Because of the Association’s unique perspective, i.e., existing not for its own sake but for that of its members, its knowledge and experience, as well as the necessary services it provides, its role, both in Catholic radio leadership and service, will continue to grow. In addition, the Association provides an objective and much needed forum in which to discuss the growth pains and ever-changing broadcasting marketplace, so that each station or programming apostolate may take full advantage of all opportunities to expand and spread the Gospel. These reasons make the Association indispensable.
The growth of Catholic radio received a big boost in 1996 when Mother Angelica made EWTN’s program feed available for free to any station which wanted to air it. WDEO (Ann Arbor), KIHM (Reno), WQOP (Jacksonville) and WRYT (St Louis) were the first to take Mother up on her offer. They were also the first to be inundated with requests for information and assistance from others interested in establishing a Catholic station.
One of the early visionaries of the effectiveness of Catholic radio was Gene Zurlo. An entrepreneur, Gene brought together the founders of the aforementioned stations with an idea to harness their knowledge and experience and leverage it to help others by packaging and disseminating it through an association of Catholic radio stations. It was 1999, with 20-some Catholic stations on the air, the CRA was born.
Straight away the FCC opened up an opportunity to apply for Low Power FM licenses. The CRA got its feet wet and helped a couple groups apply for LPFM licenses. Receiving licenses from the FCC was the way in which Protestant/Fundamentalist radio grew so quickly and economically over the previous decades. It can reduce the startup cost of a station by over 75%!
In 2000 the CRA teamed up with EWTN to create the Global Catholic Radio Conference. The radio conference grew out of the efforts of the Lay Catholic Broadcasting Network’s conferences in San Francisco in the late 90’s and EWTN’s affiliate meetings. The radio conference is the single most effective opportunity to gather and share the collective knowledge and experience of all those in Catholic radio. It has been a powerful catalyst to the increase of stations and programming, and therefore, the very life of the Church.
2001 saw a change in the CRA’s work and organization. Archbishop John P. Foley, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, in a meeting with CRA founders, asked the CRA to take on the task of being the trade association for the burgeoning apostolate of Catholic radio. The founders considered the idea and quickly agreed.
In 2002 Stephen Gajdosik was hired as the CRA’s first president with the charge to carry on and expand its current work while developing the organization into an effective trade association. Membership was opened and over 100 Catholic radio apostolates, program producers and nascent Catholic radio hopefuls joined as inaugural members.
The CRA immediately began shaping and expanding the new Catholic Radio Conference to make it even more effective in serving the needs of Catholic broadcasters.
2002 also saw the establishment of our Episcopal Advisory Board. Through the EAB every US Bishop over the last 12 years has been informed, educated and invited to utilize Catholic radio to leverage the work of the Church. This outreach has profoundly affected not only every Catholic station and program provider in the country, but the life of the Church in the US and, consequently, the world.
1999 – founded
2000 – launched the first Global Catholic Radio Conference with EWTN
2001 – Archbishop John P. Foley, asks CRA leaders to build trade association
2002 –membership element, member services and Episcopal Advisory Board begun
2003 – Filed for over 50 FM translators for members
2004 – filed applications for 40 full power AM licenses
2005 – moved to SC at the request of Bishop Robert J. Baker
2007 – filed over 200 noncommercial FM (NCE FM) applications for members
2009 – initiated and coalesced the national resistance to the FCC’s proposed Localism rules which would have given de facto control of programming to local advisory boards by taking it away from Catholic owners. Talk show hosts such as Glenn Beck take lead and expose FCC’s plan. Pending House and Senate legislation is amended to reflect Localism’s threat after CRA leaders meet with key Senate and House members.
2010 – Instrumental in passage of the Local Community Radio Act authorizing a new Low Power FM application window
2011 – Initiated legal actions against Performance Rights Organizations which eventually leads to the creation of reasonable music license rates for talk-formatted stations.
2013 – Raised awareness and lead effort that resulted in over 300 Low Power FM applications submitted for new Catholic stations; Loan facility for capital expansion or debt consolidation initiated
2014 – Advocated in formal Comments to the FCC for AM stations to be allowed to apply for an FM translator, this would give Catholic AM stations a footprint on FM and a nighttime presence.
2015 – Lead effort to petition the FCC to create a 250 watt LPFM service; Created the Catholic Programming Symposium to equip and enable Catholic radio apostolates to produce and choose programming which is both orthodox and efficacious in our rapidly-changing culture
Uniqueness of the Association
In instituting the Catholic Radio Association its founders recognized the need for more Catholic stations to build up the Church in the New Evangelization. Conventional means of teaching the Faith were meeting with little or no success. In order to build more stations, there needed to be a more efficient sharing of information amongst nascent Catholic operators who were blazing a trail in this thing called “Catholic radio”. With no one else to look to for guidance or experience, the need for sharing successes and failures among operators quickly became evident.
As Catholic radio grew, more and more questions and needs arose:
- Who would apprise Catholic operators of opportunities to expand? Who would help them?
- Who would interact with Bishops and help develop a theology of evangelization for Catholic radio?
- Who would promote Catholic radio among the general population and invite everyday Catholics to fulfill their Baptismal calling and participate more fully in this instrument of the New Evangelization?
- Who would watch regulatory and statutory proceedings and alert/advocate Catholic radio apostolates?
- Who would support new and existing apostolates to fulfill their calling to establish and operate Catholic radio stations or develop new programming ideas?
- Who would look out for the interests of all involved in Catholic radio and seek the good of all, without regard to corporate self-interest?
Association leaders, station operators and even the President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications saw the importance of an organization dedicated to the expansion and development of Catholic radio.
Today, the Catholic Radio Association serves these needs and more, filling the gap to make the Church’s work of evangelization more effective by helping to convert our culture to Christ one station at a time.