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BY Jim Cosgrove
SAN DIEGO-As reported in the Register May 3, Ignatius Press founder and president Father Joseph Fessio SJ is working feverishly with San Diego-based broadcast veteran John Lynch and others to form a 24-hour national talk radio network, the Catholic Radio Network.
The organization is in the process of finalizing purchase of a 10-station network from Children's Broadcasting Network, which includes major stations in six of the 10 top radio markets in the United States.
A life-long broadcaster, Lynch started a radio network, which he sold to Jay Corps 18 months ago, resulting in significant returns for his investors. Speaking from experience, he projected that the Catholic Radio Network will increase to 40 or 50 stations in order to maintain an efficient model. New deals, he said, are already on the table in San Francisco, San Diego, and Washington, D.C.
Lynch, the network's CEO, also stated that the enterprise has been established as a for-profit entity in order to attract investors who want to earn a good return as well as being committed to the cause of nationwide Catholic radio.
He spoke by phone to attendees of the Catholic Marketing Network-Catholic Lay Broadcasting Network communications expo regarding the status of the network and programming plans.
“Sept. 1 is our start-up date,” Lynch said, adding that Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap, who is on the network's board of directors, wrote letters to all of the bishops asking for their support in this enterprise and had received many encouraging replies.
Lynch said the network has secured $35 million from banks and that it seeks at least as much funds from investors. So far, he said, a total of more than $55 million dollars has been raised, but they were “holding out for another major investor.” The minimum investment is $250,000.
Chief Financial Officer Frank DiFrancesco, a long-time associate of Lynch's, is in the process of assembling a strong sales team for each major station. Bill McMahan, one of the nation's top talk-show consultants, noted for “putting Rush Limbaugh on the air,” was hired full-time in order to develop the network's programming.
The popular Dr. Laura show is one of the models the network seeks to emulate, perhaps incorporating short features such as “businessperson of the day,” “mother of the day,” etc., to highlight people who are living their faith in the ordinary circumstances of life.
Hourly news is scheduled to be supplemented with Catholic news, and special weekend programming is slated to include such features as Notre Dame football, an hour call-in show with Church prelates, and Sunday morning Mass broadcast from the great cathedrals of the world.
“We need compelling programming,” Lynch explained. “Our target is the broad amount of Catholics who are either not committed [in their faith] or doing a good job” but needing encouragement and support.
Lynch further explained that there are several ways they plan to expand the network. Catholic Radio Network will assume any group, anywhere in the country, who secures half the cost of purchasing a wide-range suitable station in their area and shares the network's vision. They will also enter into affiliation agreements with other stations.
At this point, the first-ever national Catholic radio network seems to be “moving on” just fine. Keep your ears tuned for Sept. 1.
For more information, call the Catholic Radio Network headquarters: 619-784-6900. (Karen Walker)