On September 26, 2000, Fish 104.7 debuted on the Atlanta’s FM airwaves, the first metro-wide Christian pop station in town, with 40 days and 40 nights of uninterrupted music.
The station found its footing quickly and has shown remarkable stability over the past decade. Its morning team Kevin Avery and Taylor Scott remains. Both mid-day host Parks Stamper and afternoon host Dan Ratcliffe are original jocks. The sales staff? Virtually no turnover. And the music has been Christian pop all the way.
Even the slogan has held firm: “Safe for the Whole Family.”
No other music station in town can match this level of consistency.
“We’re loving on our listeners and they’re loving us back,” said Mike Blakemore, the program director. “We feel like it’s radio with a purpose. We’re not just entertaining people. We’re inspiring them.”
The Fish has been a top 10 station among 25- to 54-year-olds for years and does even better among women in that demographic. An average of 570,000 people tune in any given week, according to Arbitron.
“We compete with the big boys,” Stamper said. “I didn’t think this would end up so huge.”
Allen Power, the original general manager who now oversees other markets as a senior vice president, said he feels like a proud papa.”The Fish has been blessed with great personalities and great music but it’s more than that,” he said. “It’s the kind of station that connects with its listeners and becomes part of their lives, like church, school and their neighborhood.”
Avery, who resembles a musician with his long, wavy hair, said other morning shows might be out hitting the clubs or hobnobbing with celebrities. “On Friday night, I’m at a high school football game and Taylor is at her sister’s. That’s the world we live in, which is very relatable.”
Atlantan Barbie Briggs, a 42-year-old wellness coach with two teen-age daughters, calls herself a “big Fish geek.”
“I love how I am never offended by the DJ talk like I am with other morning shows,” she wrote in an email. “I love how they share stories of real listeners and how they promote family-friendly concerts and ideas.”
The station’s free Celebrate Freedom concert last month in Marietta headlined by rock band Switchfoot drew a whopping 52,000 people.
“When I am on my way to a tough or ‘extra grace required’ situation,” Briggs wrote, “I always make sure I turn it on and sing loudly so I can ‘get my Jesus on’ and be ready for the situation in a manner that would be pleasing to Him.”
Roddy Freeman, a media sales specialist who writes a blog about Atlanta radio called Atlanta Airwave Action, in June dubbed the station a “finely-tuned machine” with jocks that embody “wholesomeness, family and sincerity.”
Stamper tried to flesh out why so few people leave the Fish: “They pay well for a Christian station. And they seem to have respect for the employees. I can’t really imagine being anywhere else.”
Power said the station had to hustle in its early days to draw mainstream advertisers who were wary of the Fish’s intentions, worried it might be controversial. But the station is the opposite of controversial and now has a stable of advertisers that includes Kroger and Rooms to Go.
The station’s goal is to ensure content is okay for an eight year old.
Morning host Scott, for instance, has never mentioned the Bishop Eddie Long case in which four men have accused him of sexually taking advantage of them as teen-agers.
“That’s just too sensitive,” she said.