Christian Science Church Puts Radio Up for Sale

The Christian Science Church is putting major portions of its broadcast operations up for sale.

The Christian Science Monitor announced Monday that it will sell its award-winning public-radio news operation, Monitor Radio, and has begun discussions with potential buyers.

At the same time, the church's Herald Broadcasting Syndicate plans to lease or sell two powerful shortwave stations - WSHB in Cypress Creek, S.C., and KHBI on the island of Saipan - that carry news and religious programming worldwide.

The moves reflect changing markets and a need to balance the many activities of the church's worldwide healing ministry.

"We plan to remain a constructive force in radio news and are currently exploring new programming opportunities," says Monitor Editor David Cook. "Any future radio efforts will be on a more modest scale and will have to give promise of being self-supporting. Our church must balance its desire to serve a radio audience with the need to support its global healing ministry and to strengthen our newspaper."

The Monitor began producing public-radio programs in 1984. It grew to be the second-largest provider of news broadcasts to the public-radio system after National Public Radio. Carried on more than 200 stations, Monitor Radio's three programs are heard by 1.1 million listeners each week.

Monitor Radio will continue producing programs at least through June 30 and will work with public-radio stations to minimize any disruption from a sale. The Monitor has retained Veronis, Suhler & Associates, a New York investment banking firm, to handle the sale, which it hopes to complete by July 1.

Gene Jankowski, formerly chairman and president of the CBS Broadcast Group, is overseeing the Monitor Radio transaction for Veronis, Suhler. No selling price has been disclosed. The Christian Science Publishing Society is selling its radio news operation, which includes access to stations and a worldwide news staff, but will not sell or license the Monitor Radio name. Monitor Radio broadcasts are distributed in the United States by Public Radio International (PRI). The Monitor is discussing the sale of Monitor Radio to PRI, among others.

"Through a sale, we hope to ensure that public radio stations are served with Monitor-quality programs and that our employees find satisfying jobs in radio," says Publishing Society Manager William H. Hill.

Monitor Radio was the first to offer public-radio stations a number of services, including the first weekend news magazine, the first 5 a.m. weekday broadcast, and the first noon news program. The programs won a variety of major journalism prizes, including the Overseas Press Club, Sigma Delta Chi, and Robert F. Kennedy awards. "Monitor Radio's reputation for unbiased, in-depth reporting was built by a wonderfully talented staff on the foundation of The Christian Science Monitor's 89-year commitment to unselfish public service through journalism," says Mr. Cook.

To handle the lease or sale of its shortwave stations, the Herald Broadcasting Syndicate has retained George Jacobs and Associates of Washington, D.C. The church's first shortwave station went on the air in 1987. At its peak, shortwave broadcasts aired in 145 countries. Currently, the stations air Monitor Radio programs on weekdays and religious programs on weekends.

RELIGIOUS radio programs produced by the church - including the Christian Science Sentinel and the Herald of Christian Science - will continue to be broadcast on AM and FM stations in cooperation with local Christian Science churches. To ensure broad international distribution of religious programs, the church will purchase time on shortwave stations owned by other broadcasters in Africa, South America, and Asia.

"Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, international broadcasting has been evolving rapidly with shortwave playing less of a role as commercial broadcasting expanded," says Mr. Hill. "We have seen a decline in our shortwave listenership as have other shortwave broadcasters. Distribution channels are different now than when we went into shortwave 10 years ago. We need to focus more on producing programs than on operating the channels of distribution."

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