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Divine sounds: Foote family celebrates gospel radio station's first anniversary

Foote family celebrates gospel radio station’s first anniversary

Jeremy Lazarus | 2/22/2018, 7:08 p.m.
Richmond radio station WQCN is marking its first anniversary of delivering gospel to fans in the area on 105.3 FM. ...
Altony “Tiger” Foote Jr., left, and his father, the Rev. Altony Foote Sr., pose in the WQCN radio studio inside Faith & Love Fellowship Church in South Side. The gospel station reaches listeners over 105.3 FM and streaming on the internet. Jeremy Lazarus/Richmond Free Press

Richmond radio station WQCN is marking its first anniversary of delivering gospel to fans in the area on 105.3 FM.

Better known as “The Choice,” the station is the growing broadcast arm of the 150-member Faith & Love Fellowship Church based on South Side.

The studio and equipment are housed in a portion of the decade-old non-denominational church at 141 E. Belt Blvd., just a few blocks from Southside Plaza. The station’s broadcast tower sits on the property.

While Richmond has several other gospel stations, such as Praise 104.7 and Rejoice 990 AM and 101.3 FM, WQCN believes it’s a bit different because of its church tie.

“Commercial stations have to put money first to stay on the air,” said Minister Altony “Tiger” Foote Jr., 46, the station’s chief operating officer. “We don’t. We put ministry first. We want to usher you in like a church, not be a gatekeeper that examines your production over your passion.”

It’s also a rare independent station in Richmond with all African-American management.

Along with music, the 100-watt station broadcasts 26 different shows each week, most locally produced.

WQCN just added celebrity comedian Sheryl Underwood’s new show, “Spiritual Nourishment,” to its lineup, Mr. Foote said. He noted that the Gospel Music Workshop of America’s RVA Alliance of Gospel Music Professionals is making the station its official home, evidence the station is winning recognition for its community role.

The regular shows and the gospel focus has sparked audience growth since the station’s fledgling start on Feb. 12, 2017, when its only broadcast was a repeating one-hour compilation of music and the announcement of its call sign.

Mr. Foote estimates that at least 10,000 area residents tune in each week, along with thousands more listening over the internet. The station can be heard clearly in a 25-mile radius around the city, Mr. Foote said, or about the distance from Richmond to Ashland to the north and from Richmond to Petersburg to the south.

But there have been inquiries and interest from as far away as India, said his father, the Rev. Altony Foote Sr., 69, the station’s general manager and pastor of the church he co-founded 10 years ago with his wife, Gloria Foote.

The station’s first birthday is worth celebrating, both said, because of the seven years it took to secure the license from the Federal Communications Commission.

In 2010, the church started the application process and was prepared to compete in the 2013 lottery the FCC held for new low-power stations. The church was one of the lucky winners in 2014, but it took another three years for the station to start broadcasting.

One big problem was finding a location, Mr. Foote said. At the time, the church was located in a rented storefront next door to a credit union. By 2014, the church that started with 12 members had more than 100 attending on Sunday and needed more space, Rev. Foote said.

Space became available in 2015, when the credit union decided to move and sell the building, including the storefront the church was renting. Rev. Foote said he was offered the first chance to buy the property for a discounted $350,000 and jumped at it, even though there was only $2,000 in the church building fund.