How do we know how many people are listening to CBA programmes?
Independent research companies are engaged by commercial radio stations to survey the listening habits of thousands of radio listeners. Many hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent to collect and analyse this information, and it is paid for by the participating commercial networks.
Listeners are randomly selected from the general population and are monitored throughout the period. By extrapolation, the researchers calculate how many people are listening at any given time of day, to what station and for how long.
The results are broken down into various demographics and psychographics. One of these, which is critical to CBA’s mission, is that at least 86% of those listening to Newstalk ZB say that for them ‘religion or spirituality is not a primary interest’ in their life.
Newstalk ZB is consistently the most-listened-to commercial radio network in New Zealand. It is crucial for CBA to rate well during survey periods to justify our presence on their station.
How does CBA know it's making any difference?
That’s a very tricky one to answer, and there are several ways to look at it:
Our mission is to communicate the essentials of the Christian faith to those who have never understood. There are two parts to that: a) communicating the faith and b) to people who are not already convinced believers. We believe we’re doing the first part – to varying degrees of ‘overt-ness’, depending on the programme – and in many different ways through our range of programmes. As for the second part – there are vast numbers of people listening, and the survey results indicate that over 85% of the people listening are not already Christians.
Our programmes rate very well with the audience, which means they are in fact listening.
We receive anecdotal feedback from listeners – Christians and non-Christians. These are usually callers to the programmes, on air and off air. We also receive text messages, emails and the occasional letter. The feedback is generally positive and indicates that the Christian message is coming through clearly.
The radio station managers feel that we’re providing good radio. That’s crucial to retaining our place on the station, and keeping the ear of the listeners.
We think we’re getting better at our ‘craft’ of communicating the faith. Year after year, we’re gaining experience of what works and what doesn’t. We make mistakes, we take risks and we learn. Surveys break down listening habits in to 15-minute blocks, which gives us a good picture of how we rate with our weekly programmes.
Finally, but most importantly, we pray. As a ‘seed sowing’ ministry, we don’t expect to get loads of listener feedback. Most people don’t phone radio stations to say ‘thanks for the programme’, and in fact, listeners wouldn’t know the show has been produced by CBA anyway, because we don’t ‘brand’ our programmes on air. As they say – ‘it’s amazing what you can achieve if you don’t mind who gets the credit’. Instead, we place a huge emphasis on prayer. We pray that God will use our broadcasts to touch hearts and water the seed. CBA’s Prayer Task Force has more than 900 people, and we seek to grow that all the time. If you’d like to join you can sign up
What is the difference between CBA and Rhema?
CBA is an entirely different entity to the Rhema Media (formerly Rhema Broadcasting Group). We are good friends, but very distinct from one-another in our mission and methodology.
CBA is a programme producer/programme provider, and all our programmes are designed specifically for non-Christian audiences on existing mainstream secular commercial radio networks. CBA is not a radio station. We do not own the stations on which we broadcast and we never pay for air time.
Rhema Media, on the other hand, operates three Christian radio networks; ‘New Zealand’s Rhema’, ‘Life FM’ and ‘Star’. These operate 24/7, the music is Christian and the target market is, by and large, predominantly Christian.
CBA has an excellent relationship with Rhema Media and we work together when we can. Rhema sometimes plays CBA programming, CBA sometimes uses Rhema’s recording facilities and several of Rhema’s announcers have done work on CBA programmes. We each have expertise in different areas, and our commissions are different yet complementary.
Who runs CBA?
CBA is an intra-denominational charitable trust run by six trustees. Lomond Seel is the Chairman, Phil Guyan is the Managing Trustee (or CEO), and the other trustees are Marsha Fellet, Sheree Hughes, Paul Webber and Reuben Bradley.
We have broad denominational support, with the endorsement of every mainstream Christian denominational leader in New Zealand. We stay in regular contact with the denominational leaders and seek their input and suggestions at any time.
How many staff does CBA have?
We have five full time staff plus several part timers and contractors. Phil Guyan is the Managing Trustee with responsibility for directing CBA and producing or overseeing the programmes. Erin Carpenter is CBA’s Executive Administrator, with responsibility for the administration, customer care and part-time administrative staff. Kate McGlinchey is our fundraiser. Josh Couch produces programmes and heads up our online strategies. Elesha Gordon is in charge of Salt, our network of Christians working in media, and also helps out with programming.
Given the wide range of activities and the small team, we tend to all work on all areas: programming, fundraising, marketing, events, etc. We work with a large number of highly skilled writers, presenters, sound engineers, graphic designers and other contractors, casual part-time staff and volunteers.
Where do I find CBA's programmes?
Most of our
programmes are broadcast on Newstalk ZB. Our topical specials are broadcast on a wider range of radio stations.
Total Recall with Frank & Jax airs on Newstalk ZB, 6pm -7.30pm every Sunday.
Real Life with John Cowan airs on Newstalk ZB, 7.30pm-8pm every Sunday.
Christmas broadcasts on Newstalk ZB 6pm-12midnight Christmas Eve, and 6am-6pm Christmas Day.
Easter broadcasts on Newstalk ZB 6am-6pm Good Friday.
Topical Specials (Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, Waitangi Day etc.) are played by different stations at different times so it’s really difficult to tell when they’ll play. For copyright reasons, we can’t make all of these spots available online without paying large royalty fees.
How will I recognise a CBA programme?
Hopefully you won’t. We’re trying to sound as much as possible like the station on which we’re broadcasting. If you’re driving in your car, flicking between radio stations on your car stereo, and you happen to come across a CBA programme – it should sound like Newstalk ZB, or More FM, or RNZ National – depending on the station.
We don’t brand our programmes, because we want it to sound like normal programming on that station. The message and content of our programmes, however, should hopefully prompt people to consider aspects of the Christian faith. We’re happy to advertise our programmes to Christians, but we’re actually intending to broadcast to the existing audience, which is predominantly non-Christian.
Why do you not identify the programme as being produced by CBA?
That is intentional on our part. We’ve discovered that if we announce “this programme is produced by Christian Broadcasting Association” – we instantly lose huge numbers of listeners with whom we’re trying very hard to connect. It’s better to just let the programme speak for itself. Our shows are designed for the over 85% of listeners who have identified themselves as non-Christian.
It is better that they assume they’re listening to a Newstalk ZB programme, which in fact they are. It’s a Newstalk ZB programme, produced by CBA. What we hope, is that they enjoy and relate to our programmes (on the station they always listen to) but that they will also hear gentle, subtle but very clear messages about the Christian faith.
Why does 'Real Life' feature agnostic and atheist guests?
Every now and then we receive a letter or email from a supporter with a query: Why was there no mention of God on tonight’s CBA’s programme? And why does CBA have non-Christians as guests?
Our brief from Newstalk ZB is that we must interview a wide variety of guests… Christian and non-Christian… and that they be well-known (or ‘house-hold names’). We have the opportunity to talk with all of them about God, but not all of them are coming from a Christian perspective, and some specifically ask not to. Interestingly – many people who have not been known for their Christian commitment have come out with some very strong and positive statements about their faith in God.
Our audience is mostly non-Christian, so we need to keep them interested, and for them, hearing a Christian interview another Christian about faith, week after week, may well become a turn off. It is also less robust and convincing than hearing John interview people from various backgrounds.
John himself put this very well (2009):
“For the last five years I have hosted Real Life for CBA, which is broadcast live on Sunday nights on the Newstalk ZB network. For the last ten survey periods it has been the top rating programme nationwide – people really are listening in large numbers, which is both exciting and humbling. Each week I interview one high profile individual for the whole hour. We aim to get past current activities, beyond the life story and into what they believe. Sometimes, sadly, it just reveals how bleak and empty their hearts really are. But after 230 guests on Real Life, three-quarters of them have admitted on air to having some form of faith. Sometimes it is only a vestigial remnant, and other times it’s far from orthodox but, never-the-less, the majority of people on the programme alluded to a spiritual dimension in their life. And because we have created a platform where spiritual things can be talked about, if my guests do have a truly Christ-centred life then their testimony comes across very clearly.”
Commercial radio is a high-pressured, competitive industry and if a programme doesn’t capture and hold an audience then the station cannot afford to carry it. We can’t expect them to broadcast our material just because it is ‘worthy’; it has to be, first and foremost, good radio that will attract (rather than alienate) listeners and advertisers.
Why has there been little 'God-content' on Real Life for several weeks in a row?
Many weeks during the year we are “in survey”. That’s when thousands of radio listeners throughout the country are being monitored by a research company to gauge how many people are listening to which station. It’s extremely important that we attract the greatest number of listeners possible for this period. If we rate well, we will remain on air – if we don’t, we will no longer have a programme. It’s that tough!
The most challenging aspect of the show of course is how to get ‘non-religious’ people to talk about God and faith, naturally, and in a way that actually is beneficial to pointing non-Christian listeners toward Jesus. That is always a challenge. It’s much easier, of course, when the guest is a Christian… but sometimes, the way things work out, we might have several weeks in a row without having a guest who is a Christian. While we are in survey, the ratings are king, and for those few weeks the most important thing is to rate well with the audience.
Then again, sometimes we have several weeks in a row of strong Christian content. Under normal circumstances, we try to have a Christian guest at least one week in three – and more often when possible.
The criteria set by the station is that they must be a “household name” – and over the survey period, the higher the profile, the better.
We sometimes have several weeks in a row with lesser-known guests, or a string of non-Christians guests. This doesn’t phase us too much – since we need to bear in mind the over 85% of listeners for whom spirituality and religion is not an interest. If they continue to tune in, in increasing numbers because of the quality and interest of the programme, then that’s great – because in a couple of weeks we’ll again have a programme that delivers a strong Christian message. By not having ‘God-content’ every single week, we are able to bring that in naturally, positively, without it being forced, contrived or predictable. This is particularly important so that when a guest really doesn’t want to talk about it – or may indeed have a very contrary view-point – then we don’t feel we have to go there.
Please pray that God will direct us to respected, articulate and faithful guests!
Why does CBA hand out Easter Eggs on Good Friday?
Because we are broadcasting on completely secular networks, over 85% of our listeners on Good Friday do not regard spirituality or religion as a primary interest in their lives. The programme has to be designed with thought of how to connect with people who do not give a second thought to the true meaning of Easter.
We arrange for our “out and about” team to hand out Easter Eggs to bring a ‘nation-wide feel’ to the programme. It’s fun, provides some light relief between sometimes very weighty discussion, and also encourages more people to tune in.
For most non-Christians, Easter means little more than chocolate and a long weekend. We see no reason to condemn them for eating chocolate, especially since most Christians join in with that too! It’s not scriptural to wait until Sunday to eat chocolate eggs – that’s simply a Christian adaptation of a pagan ritual, so it’s a compromise we’re happy to make for the sake of entertaining radio that the listeners can relate to.
Why does CBA include Santa in its Christmas programme?
Yes, we feature Santa Claus on our Christmas show. Santa is part of our modern western culture and tradition.
The difference on our show is that our Santa Claus talks to the children about how he is giving presents to remind children that it is Jesus’ birthday. Santa also talks about his origins of St Nicholas who served Jesus, by serving the poor. We use the images of our modern culture, to connect our audience with the real meaning of Christmas.
What are the basics of the Christian faith?
The Christian faith is based on the primary conviction that there is one God, who is loving, and who may be known by human beings. He has revealed himself through history, supremely in the person of Jesus of Nazareth whom Christians confess as the Christ.
Christians believe that in Jesus, God became a human being and lived life as all human beings are meant to live – in relationship with God. In his death on the Cross and his resurrection from the dead, Jesus dealt decisively with the spiritual neediness of human beings and promises forgiveness, spiritual vitality and hope for the future to those who trust in him.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the Christian faith, we recommend that you consider attending an
Alpha course at a church near you.