A High-Fidelity Messenger
Long before Rush Limbaugh proved that radio listeners would flock to unapologetically opinionated chat, 10-year-old Stuart Epperson was reading Bible verses from a radio station his brother built in their family's Virginia farmhouse. By age 36, Epperson had bought an AM station in Roanoke, Va., that would be the beginning of a religious and political broadcasting powerhouse. Salem Communications, the company Epperson, now 69, later founded with his brother-in-law Edward Atsinger, owns 104 radio stations in 24 of the top 25 U.S. markets and reaches an estimated 5 million listeners a week. The broadcaster's stations offer Christian music and teaching, as well as conservative talk shows that engage listeners not just to consider hot-button issues like abortion and stem-cell research but also to weigh in with letter-writing campaigns and phone calls to politicians.