Let there be LightFM
One local radio station is determined to deliver a message of hope
IT DOESN’T get much bigger than Christmas for faith-based radio station 89.9 LightFM. Melbourne’s only Christian broadcaster pulls out all the stops to cut through the commercialism and reinforce the true spirit of the season to its 200,000 listeners.
Though passionate about its charter, general manager Phil Gray says the station doesn’t use fire and brimstone — much — to ram its message home.
‘‘We’re not broadcasting wall-towall preaching sermons from overseas that we Aussies might not relate to,’’ Gray, a 21-year commercial radio veteran says.
‘‘We’re here to be a positive influence, be a positive difference in people’s lives and to present a message of hope.
‘‘The station is built on biblical principles and ethics, but is just trying to be relevant and relate to the average Aussie and not bash them over the head.’’
Listeners will find a mix of Christian and contemporary music among the contemplation of the Almighty.
‘‘I suppose it’s somewhere between Vega and MIX,’’ Gray says of his station’s music format.
‘‘We’re trying to target families, 25 to 49-year-olds. That’s our actual demographic.’’
Gray says LightFM exists not only to spread the good word, but to offer people help, be that advice, a voice or a shoulder to cry on — off air and on.
‘‘We just try to present real assistance in how to have better relationships with family, with children, with colleagues,’’ he says.
‘‘We try to not focus on the doom and gloom, but focus on the more positive things that there are to celebrate and to enjoy in life.’’
The city’s Christian radio voice is celebrating its sixth anniversary this month, but Gray says it took almost 20 years to obtain a licence.
Four groups had been vying for the licence.
‘‘Finally two of them merged and were successful,’’ Gray says.
Though Australia’s various Christian stations are autonomous, they are all members of umbrella group Christian Media Australia.
LightFM has struck several strategic partnerships to more effectively spread its message and raise its awareness in the community.
They include TV station Channel 9, which has brokered a deal to simulcast its news every night at 6pm.
‘‘They saw the partnership as not only being a great way to get their news on another platform, but as probably the best way to tap into the Christian community and to seek goodwill, I suppose, from the Christian community,’’ Gray says.
LightFM also has links to the Australian Christian Channel, on Foxtel, as well as Bayside Church in Cheltenham, providing what Gray calls their ‘‘Careline’’ team.
‘‘It’s not a counselling service as such but it’s a caring, listening ear. People can ring up and just unload and they can be prayed with and be given a little bit of advice or pointed to or referred to other services or local churches where they can get more assistance,’’ he says.
‘‘That’s a really good thing. We’ve received more than 26,000 calls in five years to that service and it’s continuing to grow.’’
When asked what makes LightFM different from other radio stations, Gray says it’s a determination to deliver a message of hope. ‘‘We want to be a family-friendly environ- ment that can be trusted, that provides a message of hope, that paints a more positive outlook and picture, especially at Christmas time, and try to remind people of the real meaning of Christmas.
‘‘Christmas is all about giving. The whole reason why it’s important to still give is because it reminds us of that ultimate gift of a saviour, of the Christ child all those years ago, and it’s important for us not to get lost in the hype of it all and the commercialism of it all.
‘‘Obviously that’s part of our society, but remembering the real meaning of Christmas, we’re definitely wanting to champion that.’’