Peter Kerridge, CEO of Premier Christian Communications

Peter Kerridge answers your questions

Some of our loyal supporters have had queries about Premier's recent financial challenges. In response, Peter Kerridge (PK), Chief Executive, sat down to answer a few questions about Premier’s funding and fundraising strategy.

Q: Why is Premier always asking for support? Is this due to a lack of foresight or poor stewardship?

PK: If Premier were a church we would be about the same size as the Church of England. To reach over 1 million people through a network of local churches costs the Church of England over £400 million every year.

Before COVID, average church attendance in the UK was one visit every 3 weeks and over 90% of the people who do attend will not read the Bible or any other devotional material in between visits. For the initial period after the national lockdown began the numbers of people accessing online church services was high. However, after this initial surge, numbers dropped significantly and most churches stopped reporting how many were accessing online church services. Listener engagement with Premier’s three radio stations remained strong throughout lockdown. The numbers of people subscribing to Premier’s flagship paid for monthly periodical, Premier Christianity grew during lockdown and have remained stable since – bucking the trends affecting the vast majority of paid for magazines. The numbers of people phoning Lifeline, our 365-days a year national telephone helpline increased during lockdown, by one third. Every week the number of calls exceeded 2,000, with an average listening time to callers of 20,000 minutes a week.

In comparison with the Church of England’s £400+ million per annum, it costs Premier £7.5 million to reach the same number of people at just 3% of the cost. Our engagement is over 12 times stronger at an average listening of 8¾ hours per week.

Churchgoing in the UK is at an all-time low with many major denominations facing extinction. This is not a time to be timid but is a crisis for the Christian faith in the UK.

However, rather than the weekly offerings churches might receive, Premier relies each month on the generous support of committed partners.

Q: How can a Christian organisation justify asking for money by mail or telephone?

PK: The mail and telephone have proved to be very effective communication tools for Premier, as it enables us to keep our supporters informed of our ongoing needs.
I think we would all agree that Satan is actively at work seeking to undermine the work of God's Kingdom here on earth. One of the ways he does this is by disrupting the flow of money needed to do the good works that God has ordained through ministries today! This is important because there are salaries and overheads…not to speak of the direct cost of broadcasting across the UK that must be covered.

One of the main ways we fund this significant cost of spreading the Gospel is through the support of our loyal donors. However, we do understand the vital need for prayer...for it is God who touches the hearts of people to respond to our appeals. We pray daily for the work of Premier and for God's which He has proved faithful.

"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms."

Q: How much of your costs are covered by donations and how much by advertising income?

PK: Two thirds of Premier's income comes from the generosity of our donors – mainly through individual gifts generated by our mailing programme. We also receive legacy gifts and church offerings, with the remaining one third generated through advertising, magazine subscriptions and sales income.

Q: You mail your donors frequently. How much do you spend on fundraising?

PK: Our regular communication with donors via the mail represents our largest fundraising spend. However, the income we generate from our mailing programme far outweighs the cost. We know that not everyone can respond to every letter or email; however, it is incumbent on us to remind our supporters that broadcasting to the UK is expensive and costs Premier a significant amount of money every day! We are grateful to all those who respond and enable us to continue our broadcast to the nation.

Q: It seems like Premier always has a financial target. Why is that?

PK: The reality is that it costs Premier over £720,000 a month to run its ministry. The majority of this cost being our National Digital Licence fee and staff costs. Although we broadcast to over 1 million regular listeners, only a small percentage of our audience financially support our work. The challenge for us is to help Christians understand just how vital their support is for Premier to fulfil its ministry, especially as the current economic climate is putting a strain on our income. We communicate this ongoing need by highlighting our financial target or shortfall.

Q: Why do you refer to Premier Christian Radio as ‘the Christian voice in the UK’ and ‘the voice of hope’….what about UCB?

PK: We greatly admire the work of UCB – we simply meant that while their output is predominantly music-based, ours is predominantly talk-based.

Q: Are there other cheaper suppliers that Premier can consider for its National Digital Licence?

PK: No, there is only one supplier.

Q: If broadcasting nationally is proving so costly, won’t it be more cost effective to work with others like UCB?

PK: We are always open to cost effective solutions which enable Premier’s ministry to flourish.

Q: Why is Premier spending money on Medium Wave transmitters - a dying technology - rather than using the funds towards its National Digital Licence?

PK: There are still tens of thousands of listeners who listen to Premier on Medium Wave. These are some of our most loyal and devoted listeners who due to personal circumstance do not own a digital radio.

Q: Why don't you save costs by cutting back on some of the things you do such as events?

PK: Premier have cut all live events in 2020 and for the foreseeable future due to the Coronavirus pandemic. We have moved to online events and webinars to inform, encourage and resource churches, charities and individuals. That said, we hope to revert to live events in the future as these help raise awareness of our work and increases listenership. It also gives Christians around the country an opportunity to meet with Premier presenters – as we take our broadcast to various regions.

Q: Why do you spend money on campaigns?

PK: Christians are called to be active in the public square, especially when we see injustice. By God's grace, we are able to influence communities and government to make a change in our nation. Past campaigns such as the Safetynet initiative, helped push most Internet Service Providers to give customers the option to block pornography at source. Our audience is highly appreciative of the campaigns we run as it gives them an opportunity to voice their concerns on important issues. We will continue to improve our delivery of events and campaigns, as we believe that this is part of the ministry to which Premier has been called.

"...And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" Romans 10:14 (NIV)

Q: Why does Premier extend its activities even during financially challenging times?

PK: Churchgoing in the UK is at an all-time low with many major denominations facing extinction. This is not a time to be timid but is a crisis for the Christian faith in the UK.
Over 85% of the UK population does not attend any Christian place of worship. The more opportunities we have to reach out to people on the fringe of faith, the more likely they are to get enthused by the message of hope we broadcast. It is imperative that the Christian community reaches out beyond its walls. Premier endeavour to do just that, as cost-effectively as we can…even during challenging times. I don't think Jesus said go into all the world and preach the gospel providing the economy is favourable, so we must continue the work!

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9

Q: Why do you employ staff to write news stories for on air and the Premier website? What’s wrong with the BBC or national newspapers, why do we need Premier Christian News? 

PK: There is widespread ignorance and religious illiteracy in mainstream media.

Although it is costly in terms of money and other resources we have a team of dedicated journalists that write daily news bulletins for radio and online which are updated through the day and weekend.

The news content is impartial and we work hard to represent both sides to stories, which may be deemed controversial. While many outlets will focus on a particular denomination or theological strand, we release stories relating to the wide range of Christianity with contributions from a broad sphere of influence.

We recognise that many people prefer to access information via online and social media formats, so we provide news via e-sends, blogs, Tweets and alerts on WhatsApp as well as launching in 2020, a new dedicated news website.

Q: Why doesn't Premier merge with UCB (United Christian Broadcasters) to save costs?

PK: We are in regular contact with the Trustees of UCB and although we have similar ministries, we differ in our focus. Premier is committed to continue its focus on quality speech radio, Christian publishing, campaigns and events ministry which seeks to strengthen Christians across the UK.

Q: What other measures are you taking to address your financial challenges?

PK: The current financial challenges of Covid and Brexit are putting a significant strain on our nation, our donors and subsequently on the income of Premier. Hence, we have had to make some important changes internally, such as reducing budgets and headcount, restructuring and streamlining our processes. We trust that God will supply all that's needed to continue the vital work He has called Premier to do.