- Recently you announced that FEBC’s stations in Moscow and St. Petersburg have been closed by the Russian government. What happened?
The government did not renew our license to broadcast on AM frequencies. The main reason is our proclamation of the Gospel. This was never announced to us officially, of course. When our leaders asked government officials why they are closing stations that helped avert dozens of suicides, adopt hundreds of orphans, and save thousands from drug addiction, the officials chuckled. “We know who you are,” said one of them cynically.
- Does this mean that FEBC’s ministry in Russia has ended?
No! Of course not! Far from it! About a year ago we developed a Strategic plan, outlining our goals as we dealt with new realities, both societal and technological. We decided to:
– Phase out AM broadcasting within three years, while continuing to develop FM broadcasting.
– Invest more into online and smart phone broadcasting, as well as other new technologies.
– Invest more into programming, as we must be better than secular broadcasters as we share the Gospel.
These latest developments simply push us into that direction, only faster. I personally take it as God’s move, not devil’s hurdle, even though he might think otherwise (smiling).
- How reliable are these new technologies, compared to traditional radio? It’s possible to be lost in the world of the Internet.
Or, you can be found. Just this morning I received news from one of our broadcasters, who began using an additional online tool that reaped 12,000 new listeners in two days. Smart phone apps, several websites, videocasting, YouTube and Periscope, social networks, along with FM and satellite broadcasting are the new tools we must use to reach people.
Last week I had a conversation with an owner of two FM stations. His biggest worry is that he’ll lose his business in five years if he does not transform it into FM plus online casting.
In 2015, we had more than half-a-million online listeners. This number will definitely grow as we begin promoting our broadcasts and engage with this audience.
- It is free to broadcast online, right?
I wish it was. If we want to reach millions of people, and that’s exactly what our goal is, we have to invest in the following:
– Quality, God-inspired programming
– Studios and portable equipment to be mobile
– Fee-based online connections with listeners
– Online promotions
– Personnel versatile in new technologies.
As we engage more and more in this ministry arena, we are discovering that we are getting twice the return for every dollar spent. We had to spend 50 cents to acquire a new radio listener in Russia. It takes only 25 cents to get an online listener. With the same budget, we expect to have twice as many listeners. And the reach will spread throughout Russia and wherever Russian-speaking people live, all 250 million of them.
- And what about Ukrainians?
I just spent a week in Kiev, meeting with government officials, church leaders, and the FEBC team. The country is going through a pivotal time in its history. Ukraine requires separate programming altogether; the country is becoming remarkably different from Russia. Yet, many of the problems are the same: teen suicide, alcoholism, drug addiction, and hopelessness.
There is a lot of promise in Ukraine. I don’t want to share anything prematurely, but God is opening new doors in this country. We are developing our central programming center in Kiev, and will broadcast using the same tools we are using in Russia. But the ministry is developing in such cities as Odessa—a key city on the Black Sea—and in Eastern Ukraine, where the military conflict still rages on.
- What do all these changes mean for the supporters of FEBC Russia and Ukraine?
First, we truly need your prayer intercession as never before. These are new realities for us, and we must be flexible and move quickly to take advantage of new technologies, as we operate in an ever-changing political environment. We’ve applied for several FM licenses in Ukraine and are waiting for the government’s decision. And we opened an additional online channel for office workers in Russia.
Second, we need your financial support. In Russia, we continue to broadcast via Internet, satellite, and FM. And we are attempting to open new FM stations. In Ukraine, FEBC centers in Kiev, Slavyansk, and Odessa require funding. As I mentioned, our investment is bringing much greater results in both countries. We are becoming twice as efficient. But this only works if we maintain a large-scale operation.
Thank you for standing with us as we engage in this new endeavor, sharing the eternal Gospel by using new technology. The message will always remain the same: “Christ to the World,” but we will continue to adapt by using the more efficient, cost-effective means of sharing that message.
We must invest in new programming and in Internet specialists. This translates into $32,000 in new salaries and promotional expenses for the next six months. We urgently need to invest $12,000 into the Kiev broadcast center and our ministry in Eastern and Southern Ukraine.