WGTS-FM Washington, D.C., a radio station with affiliation to the Seventh-day Adventist community, was recently named Religious Station of the Year at the 2021 National Association of Broadcasters’ (NAB) Marconi Radio Awards.
The awards, which recognize excellence in radio, were announced during the virtual NAB Marconi Radio Awards program on November 10, 2021.
The ceremony looked “to celebrate America’s great broadcasters for their excellence in radio,” according to organizers. It was hosted by “The Breakfast Club” nationally syndicated morning show host Angela Yee. The Religious Station of the Year Award was presented by Collin Jones, senior vice-president of corporate development and strategy at Cumulus Media Inc. Jones reminded viewers that “religious stations are not just about playing great music. They help build a sense of community, their faith, and inspiration.”
WGTS-FM Washington, D.C. had tough competition, nominated as a finalist together with WGRB-AM from Chicago, Illinois; KKJM-FM from St. Cloud, Minnesota; KLTY-FM from Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas; and KFIA-AM from Sacramento, California.
‘We Need to Talk’ Named Best Radio Podcast of the Year
At the same time, “We Need to Talk,” from the same station, was named Best Radio Podcast of the Year during the ceremony. The award was presented by Caroline Beasley, CEO of the Beasley Media Group. She reminded listeners that “the category honors one of the hottest trends in audio.” She added, “Radio podcasts bring you the content you want, when you want it.”
WGTS’s “We Need to Talk” on-air hosts are Claude Jennings and Jerry Woods, who lead a weekly discussion about race that the station describes as “open, honest, and sometimes uncomfortable in an effort to foster growth and understanding between people of all races.” It adds, “It’s a refreshing look at race from a non-political bent that's meant to bring people together.” Each week, the hosts take questions, share stories, and discuss where they're seeing progress, inspiring people to be a part of change.
WGTS began broadcasting in 1957 as the first non-commercial radio station to operate in the Washington, D.C., area. According to the Columbia Union Visitor, it began in the basement of the men’s dormitory on the campus of then Washington Missionary College, with a 10-watt transmitter that covered a scant square mile in Takoma Park, Maryland. The call letters — WGTS — echoed the college’s motto “Gateway to Service.”
In 1982, the station began broadcasting 18 hours a day, and in 1996, it changed to an inspirational Christian format. In 2004, the broadcast tower was moved to Arlington, Virginia, which helped grow its coverage area significantly. In 2018, the station was sold to the non-profit Atlantic Gateway Communications, Inc.
In 2021, WGTS acquired a 50,000-watt repeater in Ocean City, Maryland, which gives the station access to the eastern shore of the state. The purchase was funded by listeners and supporters.
According to the WGTS website, the stated mission of the station is “to encourage everyone … to take one step closer to Christ.” The culture of the station is founded on a commitment to integrity, service, and excellence.
WGTS president and general manager Kevin Krueger has stated that “serving listeners through Christian music radio has been a career-long blessing. Serving listeners … in the nation’s capital is an incredible honor, one I don’t take lightly; one that strikes me at the beginning of every day,” he said.
For Krueger, what he does looks to some people like mere media or even just entertainment. “But the reality is that it is life-changing, hundreds of thousand times over, as God works on the hearts of listeners … in D.C. and worldwide online,” he said. It is that calling to share God with others that keeps it all fresh and alive, according to him. “I like to daydream about a day in heaven when we will have a huge WGTS 91.9 listener reunion and we will each share stories of how God worked in our lives through a song, a word shared — through this media ministry.”
WGTS-FM is a listener-supported, non-commercial radio station. In April 2021, WGTS-FM was also certified as “Best Christian Workplace” for its “pursuit of excellence” and “ongoing Christian witness to the world.”
About the NAB
The National Association of Broadcasters is the premier advocacy association for America's broadcasters. NAB advances radio and television interests in legislative, regulatory, and public affairs. Through advocacy, education, and innovation, NAB enables broadcasters to best serve their communities, strengthen their businesses, and seize new opportunities in the digital age. According to NAB sources, Marconi finalists were selected by a taskforce of broadcasters, and the winners were voted on by the NAB Marconi Radio Awards Selection Academy. The votes were tabulated by an independent firm.