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Relevant Radio - WDVM 1050 AM Eau Claire

November, 2009 - Relevant Radio, owned by parent company Starboard Media, is big!  In fact it is the largest Catholic talk radio network in the United States with a radio signal that can be heard each day by over 20 million people! 
Currently (this number is often-changing), Relevant Radio has 12 stations that it owns and 20 other affiliate stations who play Relevant Radio programming.  This gives them an outreach to 12 states!  If you are out of transmitter range you can listen online from anywhere in the world.
As a company, the whole thing began just across the state in Green Bay on December 12, 2000 (the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Relevant Radio's patron saint). 
WDVM 1050 AM in Eau Claire has been a Relevant Radio station since those earliest days.  Father Norbert Wilger from St. Mary Catholic Church in Altoona offered his house as the first broadcasting office.  In those early days, Father Wilger was said to have closed every homily with "Listen to Relevant Radio - 1050 AM!"
Now Father Wilger has his garage back and WDVM broadcasts from 1752 Brackett Avenue. WCWCatholic visited the Eau Claire office and spoke with Operations Manager, Bob Look.
When you walk into the radio studio your eyes are drawn to the blue foam acoustic egg carton tiles on the walls and the rosaries and holy pictures hung throughout the office.  It is hard to forget that this is Catholic radio.

Bob Look is pretty much THE face and voice of Relevant Radio in the Eau Claire community.  His many hats and responsibilities include Receptionist, Radio Announcer, P.R. guy and occasional Transmitter Kicker.  (Just kidding about that last one but there are a few tricks up his sleeve if the signal goes out before he has to call the engineers in from Green Bay.)
What's more, he serves the same role for LaCrosse's Relevant Radio station, WKBH 1570 AM, and also served as Operations Manager for the Relevant Radio station in Austin, TX while they were going through the process of hiring someone to fill the position locally.
Relevant Radio programming comes in by satellite from Green Bay 24 hours a day so the only thing Look has to do is add local breaks and announcements by way of a computer.  The local station phone number in LaCrosse is forwarded to Look in Eau Claire where he also is present to that community through email and keeps an eye on their announcements and programming.
Originally from Milwaukee, Look had worked in commercial radio since 1975 and came to WDVM, Eau Claire, in November of 2007.  "One of the reasons they brought me here," he says, "was to try to be more in tune with the community, to try to get a little more involvement.  I try to maintain a communication with all the various parishes of the Chippewa Valley and let them know we are here.  For instance we get plenty of announcements - from turkey dinners to BINGO parties at local parishes."  WDVM airs these announcements for free.
Having come, most recently, from an all-sports station in Wausau (Sportsradio), Look found an innovative way to serve Eau Claire's Catholic community.  Last year WDVM was able to get extra donations and sponsorships to allow them to broadcast all of Regis High School's football games, both home and away, as well as many of the boys' and girls' basketball games.  This year they were unable to broadcast the football season but are still hoping a sponsor can be found for basketball season.
(By the way, I asked about broadcasting sports from McDonell High School in Chippewa Falls but Look explained that the AM signal is not strong enough at night in Chippewa Falls to make it worth doing at this point.  WDVM does make McDonell sports announcements in the daytime.) The station is in the second year of a three year contract to broadcast Notre Dame football as well.
Hopefully sponsorship can be found to continue this much-appreciated outreach.  "Its not that we need a lot of money to do it,"  Look explains, "but Relevant Radio put the edict out that we are not going to live beyond our means here.  That's why we have to be cautious on that.  Most of the money we get is from donations although a few years ago we went from being not only listener and donation driven but also to being a commercial venture where we offer commercial announcements."

Bob Look gives WCWCatholic a tour of WDVM.

For all the hats Look wears, he doesn't have to be an accountant.  All money received by WDVM is sent to the main Relevant Radio office in Green Bay.  They do keep track of how much money each station takes in through donations.  "That's just to give an indication of how we're doing in relation to our programming in each region and if we have the right people or enough people to sustain what we are doing."
The discussion turns to programming.  I ask what the most popular program is.  Drew Mariani?  Morning Aire?  Look has no fancy statistics on this but he can tell me who brings in the most calls if there are transmitter problems and a show is not on the air.  Father Corapi comes to mind.  Bishop Fulton Sheen's replayed lectures or sermons have a big following, too, he observes.
His personal favorite?  "It's like you have a bunch of kids, how do you pick which one is your favorite?"  He is excited about some new directions in programming though.
Look continues, "We have a wonderful program that comes out of our Minneapolis station and it's called Night Watch.  It runs from 10 o' clock Saturday nights to 1 o' clock on Sunday mornings.  Paul Sadek, the Operations Manager there, does that program.  I think it is really well done.  It features Catholic music and he also likes to replay old radio theater so it is kind of a nostalgia show and it's really a unique program.  So we are branching out and trying new things."
I ask Look if he can recommend any special show for a first time listener?  He responds,  "Just turn on the radio.  We're on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  And the way we have it structured, even if your life is a little different, like you are a third shift worker or you can't listen at the most popular times, you can catch the Best of Drew Mariani's program in the middle of the night and the interviews and content is replayed throughout so that 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, no matter what your lifestyle, you are getting our best programming."   Look continues,
 "We have learned that at any time, any day, there is somebody who maybe needs to hear what we have to say and what we are talking about and that makes the difference."
WDVM, 1050 AM, Eau Claire is open to receive your announcements and comments 
weekdays from 8 AM to 4 PM.

1752 Brackett Avenue,
 Eau Claire, WI  54701

 Your donations or sponsorships to sustain this ministry are most welcome and appreciated.

The black satelite dish in the above picture receives programming from the Relevant Radio network in Green Bay.  The white antenna is called an STL transmitter and it sends the broadcast, now with local announcements and additions to the WDVM transmitter for broadcast to the airwaves.