Let there be LightFM

One lo­cal ra­dio sta­tion is de­ter­mined to de­liver a mes­sage of hope

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page - GREG THOM

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.’’

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