Family Radio not rolling in dough


Controversial Family Radio, the source of the recent failed prediction of the end of the world, draws tens of millions of dollars in donations each year, but it also spends heavily on its religious mission. As for founder Harold Camping (pictured), he draws not a cent in salary.

Family Stations Inc., the official name of the non-profit broadcaster, has not yet filed its IRS Form 990 for 2010, but RBR-TVBR pulled up the 2009 filing and found that Family Radio spent considerably more than it took in. If, as has been rumored, the organization spent $100 million promoting Camping’s May 21st end of the world prediction, the finances were even more out of balance in 2010.

Family Radio tells the IRS its non-profit mission is to “Proclaim the true Gospel around the world & accurately teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” In pursuing that mission the organization spent $36.7 million in 2009. Meanwhile, it had only $19.7 million in revenues, mostly the $18.4 million in contributions from listeners.

$9.9 million of the cash outflow was for employee salaries and benefits – not a very large figure for a radio group with 66 stations and 348 employees coast-to-coast. And no one is getting rich working at Family Radio. Camping, an 89-year-old retired engineer, draws no salary from the organization as its President. In fact, he loaned Family Radio $175,516. When that loan was made and when it is due was not spelled out. William Thornton, Assistant Secretary/Treasurer, was paid $60,439 in 2009. Family Radio indicated on the IRS form that it has no employee who is paid $100K or more.

While Family Radio owns lots of stations in the US – valuing the FCC licenses at $56 million, it buys lots of air time elsewhere. It spent $12.7 million in 2009 to purchase broadcast time, mostly in Europe, East Asia and the Pacific, Russian and the Newly Independent States, South America and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Despite expenses exceeding income, Family Radio has a financial cushion. It listed $34 million in publicly traded securities at the end of 2009, down a little more than a million from a year earlier. Add in the value of its radio stations and other holdings and it had total assets of $104.8 million. But it also had debts of $32.4 million, so its net assets were $72.4 million.

RBR-TVBR observation: The next filing with the IRS should be interesting. Did Family Radio drain its coffers to promote the May 21st judgment day prophecy by Camping? Or will listener contributions be up substantially as people answered the call to help buy billboards and other advertisements to get the (mistaken) word out?

CNN reported that Family Radio will be restocking its coffers with the bulk of the estate of a New York woman who died May 2nd, believing that the end of the world for everyone else was just 19 days away. The woman’s closest relatives, two nieces, were shocked to find that the woman’s will left them $25K each, with the rest, about a quarter million, going to Family Radio.