MIDDLE EAST’S LARGEST CHRISTIAN TV NETWORK CELEBRATES 20 YEARS ON-AIR
From broadcasting two hours to 840 each week; from one channel to five; from one to three languages; all achieved in just 20 years. SAT-7’s first Arabic program aired on 31 May 1996 to millions across the Middle East and North Africa. SAT-7 will celebrate this milestone with a special event in Egypt.
Alongside 700 guests, SAT-7 will celebrate its 20th Anniversary with a four-hour-long festival in Cairo, on 30 May 2016. “SAT-7: Beacon of Light – 20 years of Broadcasting God’s Love” will be broadcast live and also streamed for viewers to watch online.
Egyptian dignitaries, representatives from the Egyptian government, and church leaders from many denominations will attend the festival. Clergy from the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church and the Evangelical Church will deliver speeches. Many choirs and bands will perform – and an operetta has been written especially for the occasion.
A humble beginning
Though this event will be a colossal celebration, the first two-hour SAT-7 broadcast 20 years ago was a far humbler affair. A small studio, rented by the hour with limited staff, took on the incredible challenge of videotaping the first production. But, they were driven by a vision: to make God’s Love Visible to millions of people in the Middle East and North Africa.
Dr Terence Ascott, Founder and current CEO, remembers his research and former SAT-7 years as an uphill battle. The quest before him seemed “unthinkable”, continuously met with scepticism and objection: “Arab Christians will not risk showing their faces on camera”; “It would be an impossible project to fund”; “Governments will not permit such a thing”.
The brave people on-screen
“One by one, objections and obstacles were overcome,” Dr Ascott explains. “Amazingly, too, Christians from the region were and are willing to be seen on-screen.” He recalls the bravery of the early presenters who nervously appeared on camera, unsure of how regional governments would react to such broadcasts.
“Perhaps the bravest people we’ve had on air are the Algerian and Tunisian presenters,” he continues, “who, in the last few years, have boldly gone on screen to publicly testify to their faith.”
The success of SAT-7’s growth is due to several key developments. The establishment of Farsi (SAT-7 PARS) and Turkish (SAT-7 TÜRK) language channels has enabled SAT-7 to reach a wider audience. The development of digital technology, 24/7 broadcasting and the introduction of live shows also furthered the organisation’s capacity. Additionally, the creation of Audience Relations centres opened up dialogue between individual viewers and channel spokespersons. Every viewer has the opportunity to communicate directly with SAT-7, asking for prayer or sharing their testimonies.
God has provided
Dr Terence Ascott says SAT-7’s story is evidence of God’s miraculous work.
“It is very exciting to see how God has sustained us year after year. Without doubt, God has provided in a miraculous way – in terms of people, funding and security. He has helped us overcome the impossible.”
“Jesus’ messages of love, forgiveness and turning the other cheek are as radical today as they were when he ministered in his Roman-occupied homeland 2,000 years ago. This is now a prime time for us as a ministry; people are looking for new answers in the midst of this unprecedented era of hopelessness and darkness.”
“It is fantastic, at this critical time for the region, to be able to connect with viewers in millions of homes, homes that are mostly inaccessible to other forms of Christian witness,” Dr Ascott says.
“Through the platform of SAT-7, the Church is truly able to be salt and light in society, to be a prophetic voice in this moral and spiritual wilderness.”