Turn the radio on – used to mean literally tuning in the sitting room radio. Many of us remember the annoying portable trannies before the invention of stereo headsets! Today, you can listen to the radio through a satellite dish, on cable, the Internet, a Freeview TV box, a digital radio, an analogue radio or yes even in the car.
It’s hard to believe that once upon a time we only had BBC radio in the UK, and it was good. Then came the independents and commercial channels.
They catered for religion in weekly specialist programmes such as the morning service and thought for the day. For many years the only specialist Christian radio was Trans World Radio who broadcast (and still do) a few hours daily into the UK from Monte Carlo on Short wave and AM.
I can remember back in the early 1990’s people glazing over when I suggested Christian radio for the UK. But I recognise that it is hard to imagine what you have never heard, are not sure you will like, and don’t understand why you should fund, so I thank God for the many pioneers who persevered and birthed what we have today.
So, why does the UK need Christian radio?
?Travel back with me to the first century and King Ethelbert, Augustine and the Celtic monks, making Christianity the religion of the UK. I believe this was like a first national broadcast of the Gospel. On to the 16th Century, Tyndale lost his life for translating the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into English, but King James was able to use his translation to produce an English Bible version. This was like a second national broadcast of the Word of God. Swiftly onwards to the reformation and a third broadcast spread nationally through churches and by word of mouth. Onwards and stop! Today, have we not again reached one of those crucial times in history when Christians should be seen and heard and not retreating? Does our nation not desperately need a national broadcast, for such a time as this, to present a relevant Christian world perspective to the UK? To quote Lord Puttnam, “We are talking about a market place of ideas. It would be extremely nice to think that the market place of ideas built around faith had as important a role to play as any other marketplace in the media spectrum.” (Hansard, House of Lords 2nd July, 2003)
Will it be relevant?
We have abundant diverse creativity in the church in music, drama and stories of how Jesus has impacted and changed lives. The world is still struggling with the same old problems and evolution, Government and the law certainly do not seem to have all the answers. Is it not time to take our message to the airwaves to strengthen the faithful and offer hope to the lost? Melvyn Bragg, a well-known broadcaster says, “It seems to me that the religious voices in this country are very important indeed. They are massively important for many young people I know in terms of their own spirituality, whether or not they are churchgoers – and most of them are not. They are massively important for an enormous number of people who have faith, and that cannot be judged just by people who go to church on Sundays.” And why not have specialist Christian radio and religion on the BBC/Commercial radio? Surely, there is a need for both!
?So why is Christian radio happening in these days and why has it not happened before? Simply put, up to 1990 Christian radio was not legally allowed. It took a change in the law in the 1990’s to allow Christians to apply for licences and only on satellite and local radio as there were still disqualifications on national radio. 1996 saw a disqualification for Christians from all future digital licences. It took a further long hard 3-year lobby up to 2004 Communication Act to win freedom to remove the ban on some digital radio licences, but it remains on national analogue (ordinary terrestrial radio).
Choice and diversity
?One MP once asked me, ‘Is it all hymnsand bland?’ I ask you to ponder: didn’t men of God such as Lord Reith inspire the original BBC creativity? Does God run out of ideas or keep them to himself? Radio can be intimately personal, it lets us see beyond our situation, it educates, it entertains, and it certainly can touch our feelings and lift our spirits. And if you don’t like something . . . there is always the off button!??
Premier Radio which broadcasts across London and the M25 on medium wave and nationally on Freeview, appeals to believers, church friendly or just interested people of all persuasions and denominations. It provides a balance of speech and music both traditional and contemporary. Breakfast and drive time are magazine style for commuters butthe rest of the day is varied and yes there are preaching spots with popular speakers like, Dr James Dobson of Focuson the Family, Joyce Meyer and Matthew Ashimolowo from Kingsway International Christian Centre. Premier is also rebroadcast on Cable in London and nationally on satellite. Talk Gospel(TalkGospel.com) can be heard exclusively through the Internet and is speech and music enabling African and Caribbean churches to share their ministry and music and promote their events and artists.??
UCB has four satellite stations, and a fifth only available on the Internet. Each has a distinct content providing for a wide variety of tastes. UCB Europe aimed at the whole family with news, views and lifestyle programming. UCB Inspiration is easy listening Christian music and speech with devotional thoughts throughout the day. UCB Bible is literally the Bible 24 hours a day. UCB Talk is a blend of teaching, drama, news, and current affairs. the word(www.thewordismusic.com), purely available through the Internet, broadcasts intensive Contemporary Christian music.?Cross Rhythms City radio has the only permanent FM community radio licence granted to a Christian organisation and covers the city of Stoke-on-Trent (which is actually 5 potteriestowns). They are a true community station, integrated, involved and appealing to those who would not class themselves as churchgoers. They regularly have interviews with the local police, theatres, health, education and employment agencies as well as those involved in local Government. Their music and speech is targeted for youth but appeals to all ages and faiths even though they make no apologies for their message of the gospel. Even though the station is city based, their audience on the Internet for Christian Contemporary youth music is growing.
??Trans World Radio continues to broadcast straightforward gospel teaching for example by Billy Graham and John Stott, with traditional music. However, they also have contemporary worship music and a wide variety of programmes covering the church today with guests such as Joel Edwards and Elaine Storkey. ?
Calvary Chapel radio and EWTN offer teaching, preaching and music mainly from their own denomination and providing yet another taste of the Word of God.
??And who pays for all this?
The licence fee funds the BBC and the secular stationscan sell advertising based on audience figures, but how are the UK based Christian radio stations supposed to pay their bills? They are not millionaires, cannot command enough fees for advertisements and unlike the BBC cannot demand a license fee. Most of the UK Christian stations rely on regular donations both large and small from listeners. Some such as CrossRhythms and Premier can take some local suitable advertisements or ask companies or charities to sponsor programmes. It seems to be a fine balance with the difficulty of making new listeners aware of the financial needs without begging. UCB has the Word for Today daily devotional, which has helped market and provide for their radio stations.??
?And who listens or are they all playing out on the airwaves just for the glory of God? Premier, because they broadcast on terrestrial radio and in London, have been informed by RAJAR (an audience measurement service owned by the BBC and Independent radio) that they have approximately 200,000 listeners within the M25. But they know from responses to phone-ins that many beyond this area are listening and estimate this is in excess of 350,000. The problem for the other radio stations is that it is nigh impossible to know numbers listening in on satellite, Internet and Cable. Their encouragement comes from responses to competitions and letters and phone calls to their prayer and help lines. Mr Alistair Ray claimed that “more than one in eight radio listeners now tune in via their TV’s according to the latest official radiolistening figures.” (Creative Business Section of the Financial Times). ?
Famous Radio Personalities?
TV is a very different kettle of fish (Christian fish that is) and has personalities, whereas radio programmes appear to draw audience to a particular style of music or delivery. Radio tells the story, paints glorious word pictures, and speaks to the head and the heart, whether for you it is morning worship, faith teaching or someone sharing how God has wonderfully changed their life. So radio presenters rather than becoming famous ?are more like a friend of the family and the stations regularly receive letters thanking them for a certain interview or song or something that encouraged a listener just when they needed it.??
The Invisible Industry??
Radio is the shop front for the music industry. Every pop group over the last 50 years has understood that getting airplay means sales. I read recently of a well-known singer’s music being banned from a certain radio station. I don’t understand why Christian music is restricted on secular radio. This has seriously stunted both our musicians’ development and sales. Secular shops stock practically no Christian music. At last Christian radio has been able to showt he breadth and variety of Christian music, and Christian bookshops are slowly catching up to stock it. Some of the radio stations now have direct sales so listeners can ring in and buy the CD’s they air. The struggling Christian music industry may at last get their music aired and the opportunity not just to survive but grow and develop the musicians and worship sound of the future.
??It is wonderful to think that in just over a decade we have gone from being totally disqualified to having a small, growing Christian radio industry, providing employment and great pleasure for listeners. But we cannot afford to be complacent as the industry is still vulnerable.It has always been hard for Christians to compete for licences with the commercial, secular world, so it isgood news indeed to hear that one has been successful. As we move forward into the digital broadcasting future we thank God and congratulate Premier as they start broadcasting nationally on Freeview (available through a Freeviewbox through your TV) channel 96 on the 30th August. If these broadcasts are indeed like a historical fourth national broadcast, should we not get behind them to support and encourage them? We have the most amazing life changing message, Christian radio in the UK seeks to serve the church and help us cast the message broad and far. ?
??Christian radio in the UK today
Premier Radio 1305,1332 1413 AM?
A mixture of speech and music for church goers and church friendly people of all Christian denominations with breakfast and drive time suitable for a capital city.??
Cross Rhythms City Radio 101.8 FM
A Christian contemporary local radio station integrated and involved in the life of the community. Music covering contemporary Christian rock, pop, dance and worship. Nationally on Freeserve
??Channel No. 96
Premier Christian Radio For a one-off price of less than £70 - a set top box by your delivers extra TV channels plus radio - including Premier - to your living room. Nationally on Sky Digital Satellite??
Channel No. 873
Premier Christian Radio
A mixture of speech and music for church goers and church friendly people of all Christian denominations with breakfast and drive times and specialist programming.??
Channel No. 875
Contemporary Christian music and classic favourites with news.??
Channel No. 876
Cross Rhythms City Radio
A rebroadcast of their Christian contemporary local radio station. Music covers contemporary Christian rock, pop, dance and worship.??
Channel No. 884
Ininterrupted Bible readings from the King James and the New International Version.??
Channel No. 885
News, current affairs, drama and Christian teaching.??
Channel No. 886
A blend of traditional and easy listening music with news, teaching and devotional thoughts through the day.
??Channel No. 888
Trans World Radio (TWR)
Christian preaching, teaching, information, news and current affairs.
Channel No. 897
EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network)
News and family programming including Catholic church services on radio.??
Channel No. 906
Calvary Chapel Radio
Primarily expositional Bible teaching with praise and worship programmes and a more contemporary format at weekends.
[Many of these channels also rebroadcast on the Internet]??
The Word (UCB)
Intensive contemporary music.
Talk Gospel (Premier)
The ministry and music of African and Caribbean churches.
??Restricted Service Licences (RSL’s)
?These can be obtained once a year, lasting up to one month and limited to a small area and are usually associated with an event (eg a Bible week) or a season (eg Christmas). Many run every year, like Flame FM on the Wirral.?? I believe you can also hear a rebroadcast of Christian radio in Ireland and some parts of the west coast of the UK on 549 Medium Wave. These are made possible by Irish Christian Broadcasters, ICB, christian radio.