God's Plan

At Dan Patrick's KPRC talk-radio station, it's politics with a capital G

He says he's proud that he invites discussions of other faiths, through the God Squad show or in an hour-long discussion with Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon about Islam.

"Obviously the Christian faith is the number-one faith in our community, and because of the faith of the host, that's going to dominate," he says. "But I can't think of any other radio show in the history of this city that has had a Muslim on for a full hour to talk about his faith or for me to have the God Squad on....Forget the faith issues for a moment -- I think people are fascinated by it, and I think it's a topic worthy of discussion."

Patrick has heard no complaints from Clear Channel, for whom he says the station generates a healthy $10 million a year in revenue. (Clear Channel does not publicly break down revenue figures by station.)

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Phillippe Diederich
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Patrick's radio empire started in Tomball.
Patrick's radio empire started in Tomball.

"We definitely entrust our general managers with the stations, and he's clearly more in touch with his market than we are," says Kathryn Johnson, a Clear Channel vice president.

"Our revenues have never been higher, our ratings have never been higher, so talking about God on the air, and even sharing my faith from time to time, has been a positive," Patrick says.

Whether it has been a positive for the city is another question. "Good talk radio should be a little more diverse," says the former KPRC staffer. "And this town doesn't have it. And what I fear is that [KPRC] has kind of salted the ground for talk radio here, because that is the perception -- that talk radio is what they are doing. And it doesn't have to be."

Attempts to topple KPRC from its talk-radio perch have been futile, however. A "moderate" station called 97 Talk failed after a short run a year ago, both because of a weak signal and because it was on the FM side of the dial.

KTRH is seemingly content with limiting its talk shows to gardening, home repair and sports. Other stations reach too small an audience to make much of an impact.

So the talk-radio game in Houston is pretty much limited to Dan Patrick's KPRC. And as long as he's calling the shots, that game is going to be focused, to an unusual degree, on religion.

"The only people who would put us in the group of being 'too strident' are nonbelievers, people who don't want to be accountable for their lives," he says. "The reason most people don't want to hear you talk about God, or moral absolutes, is because no one really wants to look at their own life and decide to be accountable for it. And so you kind of shoot the messenger."

There are people, of course, who think religion is a private matter, who think politics can be discussed without getting into deciding who's a sinner and who's going to hell.

Dan Patrick doesn't care about those people.

That's not why God put him here.

E-mail Richard Connelly at rich_connelly@houstonpress.com.

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