The Christian Channel enters new ownership agreement with World Impact Ministries

Article from Maranatha News

Posted 11 March, 2009

An exclusive interview with Peter Youngren

Maranatha News: When did you first become aware of this opportunity to purchase The Christian Channel [from S-VOX]?

PY: December of 2007. A person, who was involved with S-VOX, though not directly employed by the company, came to my house sharing that there was a possibility of a change of ownership. I was immediately very excited about this opportunity.

MN: Why did you want to purchase The Christian Channel?

PY: Almost 20 years ago I felt the Lord tell me that one day I would be involved in operating a Gospel television channel. I see television as a fantastic tool to reach every household. When the idea of Christian Television was first introduced in the 1960s believers were so excited, because the greatest story ever told would be carried by the greatest media ever invented. We want to rekindle some of that initial sense of purpose to present the Gospel through TV.

MN: Is The Christian Channel a “for profit” operation or “not for profit?” Will that change under your ownership?

PY: TCC (The Christian Channel) is currently a “for profit” operation, but will be operated as a “not for profit” corporation.

MN: What can you tell us about the asking price?

PY: The final price that we settled on was considerably less than the initial asking price. It has been a real pleasure to work with S-VOX and their people during this time of negotiation. Without disclosing the exact amount, this is a deal that involves several million dollars.

MN: How will you be financing this purchase?

PY: From partners and donors. We expect that many believers across Canada will rally, and want to support this venture when they hear our vision.

MN: How many people does the channel currently employ?

PY: We are not sure under the current ownership, but we anticipate initially 20 – 30 employees to be dedicated to the television network alone. This is, of course, in addition to those who are employed by World Impact Ministries (WIM).

MN: When do you anticipate hearing from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) on this matter?

PY: Communications is ongoing with the CRTC. It would be premature to predict their response at this time.

MN: Do you anticipate any objections or restrictions on their part that might prevent this transaction from proceeding?

PY: To date, no significant objections have been raised, and our experience working with the CRTC has been enjoyable.

MN: If the CRTC does give approval, when will the deal close?

PY: Upon CRTC approval, the deal will close in five business days.

MN: According to the S-VOX news release, the current president of The Christian Channel, Mark Prasuhn, says WIM is “uniquely well positioned to build on the success that has been achieved to date.” In what ways are you “uniquely well positioned?”

PY: World Impact Ministries was founded in 1976 as a non-profit charitable organization and has since adopted an approach of friendship and respect between people of varied backgrounds and religions. We have conducted meetings where up to 600,000 people have gathered at once. During this period of time, millions have come into personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and untold thousands have received miraculous healing in their bodies.

Recent efforts have been focused in non-Christian countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, and Northern Nigeria, and political and religious leaders welcomed us with open arms. I have also authored a provocative book entitled, “My Muslim Friends,” where the reader is challenged to take a path of friendship rather than fanaticism; of dialogue instead of division; and, most of all, of trust, in a deeper encounter with Jesus.

At the same time, we have been producing daily television, “Celebrating Life with Jesus,” seen on The Christian Channel and Vision TV throughout Canada, as well as on other channels in Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Kenya. We also have broadcasted on many US networks, including Daystar, Inspiration, and TCT.

We believe this extensive background gives us a unique position to deliver a message that is both needed and well received, whether being presented to a Christian audience, or to an audience of alternate faith.

MN: In the news release, you indicate that WIM will “seek to increase the distribution” of the channel. How do you hope to do that?

PY: We will try distribution first within Canada, and then in other parts of the world, whether in Europe, USA, Africa, or Asia. Initially, we will approach other cable and satellite operators within Canada, seeking to enter distributorship agreements. Once we have doubled the current number of households in Canada, reaching a minimum of two-thirds of the households, we will look at expanding to other parts of the world.

MN: Besides the establishment of ENCOUNTER, your new flagship variety program, what other changes can viewers expect?

PY: First and foremost, we want to connect with believers across Canada, in an effort to see many Canadian Christians gain a sense of ownership in relationship to The Christian Channel. One of the first tasks on my agenda is to call, or visit in person, a number of the Christian leaders across Canada.

We are building Canada’s Gospel voice to the world, and our first task will be to have that voice strongly anchored in Canada. ENCOUNTER, itself, is a 60-minute variety show featuring dynamic guests, street talk interviews, interactive viewer comments, current affair debates, live musical performances, and enriching teaching segments. The Christian Channel will also be airing special events held by various groups and organizations. This is not about a narrow approach, but a broad representation of various groups in Canada.

MN: From its inception, The Christian Channel has aspired to partner with churches and ministries across Canada. Will that continue under your ownership?

PY: Yes. World Impact Ministries plans to expand the work that TCC has done in partnering with churches and ministries across Canada. WIM will actively seek out new partnerships for programming from Canadian producers, and will also pursue the live filming of various religious events around the country.

MN: The Christian Channel operates, primarily, as a re-broadcaster. Will that continue to be the channel’s operational model?

PY: WIM will immediately commence producing its own programming, first through the daily ENCOUNTER program, and also in other original programs. Looking forward, we also want WIM to enter ‘live to air’ programming. Within a year of our taking ownership, you can anticipate several new programs, so the current model of re-broadcasting will be drastically changed.

MN: Any key staff that you can tell us about that will be involved in the day-to-day operations? (i.e., who will be running the channel, programming it, etc.?)

PY: The last number of weeks have included a number of interviews of potential key players. We don’t have those announcements yet, but we can announce that the CEO of the channel will be Nathan Thurber (nthurber@peteryoungren.org).

MN: The Christian Channel is a digital, ‘Category Two’ channel. What does that designation mean? How does that designation impact on your programming schedule?

PY: Instead of receiving sub fees from the broadcast provider, as would a ‘must carry Category One channel,’ TCC, to be carried, must often negotiate a fee. The Christian Channel is a ‘balanced Category Two channel,’ and must negotiate fees with the broadcast provider.

On the negative side, this means that there is no ‘must carry provision’ on any cable or satellite provider in Canada. A Category One channel has a must carry provision in its own area, and need not pay for distribution. On the other hand, The Christian Channel currently has a larger reach than any other Category Two channel in the country.

On the positive side, we are free to operate as a television channel in Canada, where 35 % of programming must be Canadian; which is different from a category One Channel, where there must be 65 % Canadian content. Our category, therefore, opens the opportunity for international producers to be seen in Canada, particularly in prime time.

MN: How is the channel currently distributed?

PY: The channel is currently distributed on the following outlets within Canada.

• Rogers Cable: Channel 396

• Star Choice: Channel 399

• Cogeco Cable:Channel 186

• MTS Cable: Channel 21 (Manitoba Telecom Services Inc)

• Source Cable: Channel 122

• Telus: Channel 158

• Sasktel:Channel 282

We will also initiate online streaming service of the channel.

MN: How many Canadians are able to receive it?

PY: At present one-third of Canadian households have access to TCC.

MN: One of the channel’s selling features in the past has been the fact that it was not affiliated with any one ministry, and was, therefore, able to offer “the widest variety of Christian programming from all over the world.” Do you plan to limit or restrict the programming in future? Are there any ministries to which you may deny access?

PY: WIM will strive to expand the scope of The Christian Channel within Canada, and establish a deeper involvement with various ministries across the country. We expect many pastors and ministry leaders to be featured guests on our nightly talk show. We have a very clear sense of purpose, of wanting to recapture the initial excitement believers felt about Christian television as a tool to present the Gospel. Any ministries that adhere to this purpose are welcome.

MN: The Christian Channel currently operates out of offices in Toronto. Do you plan to move those offices? If so, when, and where?

PY: WIM will set out to anchor The Christian Channel across the country, initially with studios in Toronto and St. Catharines. At present TCC does not operate any studio, so this will be a step forward. We are also considering studios in other parts of the country, such as in Calgary and Vancouver.

MN: According to the release, under the terms of the services agreement, VisionTV is going to continue to provide “technical and service support.” What does that mean?

PY: WIM has a services agreement with S-VOX. It is common in the industry that certain elements in the operation of a TV station are outsourced, and we look forward to working with S-VOX in this capacity.