Africa: Digital Evangelists Share Good News With Africa

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God TV, a Christian broadcaster that transmits 24 hours a day from Jerusalem into 214 countries and territories, is seeking to boost its presence in Africa. "God TV has a strategic plan for the continent," CEO and founder Rory Alec says. "We cover the whole continent by way of two satellites at present, with the strategy of building transmitters in each country. We have three in Kenya and are planning to launch a fourth in Tanzania."

Alec is visiting Africa on a 12-day, six-country trip to officially launch his channel's third satellite in Kenya, shoot footage for a news report on the continent for his channel, and visit projects that God TV has funded.

God TV's goals are clear. In this case, it is to "reach 1-billion souls". Global broadcasting giant CNN says it reaches 2-billion (people, rather than souls) worldwide. The 41-year-old Alec's channel already claims 125-million households, with a "potential" 440-million viewers.

But with larger households in developing countries than in developed ones, it is clearly an investment to get more viewers in Africa. God TV aims to have a terrestrial transmitter in every capital city in Africa.

In a doctrinal sense, Christian broadcasting is a conservative game. In the business model sense, the battle for souls is global. God TV, with only 12 years under its belt and an annual budget of £20m (68% of which comes from donations and 19% from sponsored airtime), is the new kid on the block.

Los Angeles-based Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), the largest Christian broadcaster in the world, has been going since 1973 and in 2005 had an income of $208m. It began broadcasting in Africa in 1986. In fact, the TBN operation based in Bhisho, then Ciskei capital, was the first overseas operation outside the US. TBN, which runs on DStv, also broadcasts through terrestrial stations in nine African countries. Texas-based Daystar Television Network, the second-largest such broadcaster, began in 1984. "We're being told we're the third-largest and fastest growing," Alec says.

Business Day Johannesburg, 9th May 2007