Leaders Meet to Discuss Christian Broadcasting in the UK and Its Future

( [email protected] ) Jun 10, 2004 09:46 AM EDT

“We are here to make a stand, to put down a marker for the things of God,” said Olave Snelling, broadcaster and Executive Chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Council (CBC), at a meeting on Christian Broadcasting in the UK and its Future, held on May 25, 2004. She continued and said that, “There was and is room for a positive future for the independent Christian broadcasters.” She finished her speech by saying we must “lift up the name of Christ through the broadcasting media.”

The meeting was hosted by Baroness O'Cathain, OBE who welcomed those present in a packed committee room of the House of Lords by saying that she deplored the widespread ignorance of the Bible, and felt that Christian broadcasting should be mainstream.

Jayne Ozanne, a member of Archbishops' Council of the Church of England asked, “Who can speak for the Church?” She said that there is a spiritual hunger in Britain - people are searching for meaning. She continued, “They want to commune with God, to be challenged and to be connected with others who have a similar ethos.” She told the Christian broadcasters that they need to provide for the needs not only of the three million who go to church fairly regularly, but the 37 million who ticked 'Christian' on the 2001 census form.

With speakers from four independent Christian broadcasters present the meeting then heard from the practitioners.

Ian Mackie of UCB (United Christian Broadcasters) spoke on the history of the organization, being the first Christian radio broadcaster in the UK in 1987, and of their satellite radio services that cover the UK and Europe. He told of the success of their 'Word for Today' daily devotional, with one million circulation each quarter, and of the launch this year of their satellite TV channel – UCB TV – that provides Commonwealth and European programs. Mr. Mackie continued, saying that it is UCB's vision is to “see a revival of faith in the UK and Ireland” and that UCB's ministry is about “changing lives for good.” By 2008 UCB plan to operate seven satellite radio stations, two DAB digital radio stations, two satellite TV stations and one terrestrial digital TV station.

For many people Christianity is seen as a dreary religion, with little to say to contemporary society, observed Peter Kerridge of London's Premier Christian Radio (1305/1332/1413 AM). He said that, “We are less likely to change lives by moral exhortation than by transformed imagination.” Premier's audience is mainly within the Christian community, including those who are disillusioned with church. The radio station tries to give room for the whole range of Christian denominations. Today Premier operates a single AM radio license in London. If Premier were able to operated additional stations in other metropolitan centers then economies of scale would benefit Christian radio as they already benefit most commercial radio companies. Despite these disadvantages the radio station is profitable and they are “challenged to remain a bright light and to be God's free samples of love and faith” over the airwaves.

Commenting on all the Christian broadcasters present Johnny Woodrow of God TV drew attention to Psalm 133: – “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity…for there the Lord bestows His blessing.” He reported that he had seen miracles in Africa, and believes they will happen here. God TV, which is based in Sunderland, have their transmission facilities in Israel enabling them to relay the programs to 11 satellites reaching over 200 countries. Their programs are a mix of news and current affairs, preaching and teaching plus Gospel Christian music videos. Mr. Woodrow said, “When we launched in 1995 we aired predominantly USA programs simply because there was no UK Christian programs available. By 2003 our UK content was up to 40% with God TV producing over 800 hours of original programming which is more than the Tyne Tees and Yorkshire TV combined.”

The UK's only Christian FM station is Cross Rhythms City Radio (101.8 FM) in Stoke. Jonathan Bellamy said of this community radio station that they are a Christian broadcaster “that aims to position itself as accessibly and as relevantly as possible in the wider marketplace outside the church.” They look to contribute to positive social change. The station plays contemporary music by Christian artists, which is appreciated by many non-Christians. Their music is heard in taxis, barbers', pubs and even Muslim owned shops. He continued, “Incidentally, you're probably wondering why Muslim shop owners play a Christian radio station? Their comment was that they liked the 'God Slots'. And why? Well, although we have different beliefs, when Muslims see the level of our materialistic western culture or the way scantily clad women are presented on billboards, they find they have far more in common with our Christian values.”

With more households owning satellite TV and the possibility of more Christian radio stations obtaining licenses, the ability for the independent Christian broadcasting industry to reach more and more people can only increase.

The whole meeting was encouraged by the tone of the speeches that highlighted the variety of independent Christian broadcasting in this growing sector of the UK broadcasting industry.

CBC's General Secretary J. Peter Wilson said of the meeting that it showed that, “When Christian broadcasters work together we can use radio and TV to bring positive messages to our society. Jesus said, 'Love one another the way I loved you.' It is this Christian attitude that sends out a fresh encouraging message to our nation.”