Stacey Rose, host of 'Island Praise', a gospel music programme broadcast on CGN. - Contributed
UNDER THE banner of 'Connecting the Caribbean for Christ', Trans World Radio, in partnership with 20 Caribbean radio stations, is offering some of the region's best-known pastors, Bible teachers along with gospel music through the Caribbean Gospel Network (CGN).
The CGN has its main office in Hollywood, Florida in the United States. It was, however, birthed in 1997 on Bonaire in the Netherlands Antilles.
At its inception, locally-owned and operated radio stations from Belize to Barbados, including Love FM and TBC FM in Jamaica, went on-board. The CGN was established for several reasons. By the mid '90s local FM radio was expanding extensively and less and less of the audience in the Caribbean was listening to TWR's 800 AM transmitter on Bonaire.
TWR understood that United States programming needed to be replaced by culturally relevant productions as well as the need to broadcast on the FM band, which offers much better sound quality than AM radio.
The CGN initially delivered programming via satellite, which proved not to be cost-effective. "If the CGN was to be launched all over again we would not have used the satellite service in the beginning (it was far too expensive) in hindsight we probably should have set up a FTP audio news service through the Internet. (We are now looking into a FTP news service)," said Robert Bernard, one of the pioneers in the establishment of the CGN.
CHRISTIAN EDITORIAL PERSPECTIVE
Since then CGN has distributed programmes by air post. However, the technology is available to deliver programming the same day by the Internet at www.cgnradio.com. This also allows them to offer a Caribbean news service with a Christian editorial perspective. The CGN is currently in communication with a partner station that may be able to help them provide a Caribbean regional news service.
CGN Director, Trevor Smith, a Jamaican, has said: "We want the best Christian communicators to share their gifts throughout the region. For example, Clinton Chisholm in Jamaica can now be heard at 11 locations. Former Jamaica Baptist Union president, the Rev. Dr. Heckford Sharpe from Montego Bay is heard on 13 stations across the region."
The Evangelical Association of the Caribbean (EAC) provides vital information for the network's programme producers. For example, the issue of common-law unions, HIV/AIDS, the need for the Caribbean Church to move from a 'mission field to a mission force', and much more.
GOSPEL MUSIC PROGRAMME
In addition to preaching and teaching, Stacy Rose, a Jamaican, hosts a two-hour weekly Caribbean gospel music programme entitled Island Praise that is heard in the Caribbean as well as the U.S., United Kingdom, and eight countries in Africa.
Scott Hollinger, the English language director for Trans World Radio and Robert Bernhardt, of the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship, were involved in establishing CGN. But now, say both men, "The time has come for more Caribbean leadership."
There is currently no U.S. programming except for the 30-minute drama Unshackled in the first hour of late night programming with Trevor Smith. All 13 programmes, except Unshackled, are produced by Caribbean persons for a Caribbean audience.
Bernhardt believes radio is the most intimate of the mass media and Caribbean people learn very well through the ear gate. He said, "The CGN is an excellent means of sharing the love of Christ throughout the region, while, at the same time, encouraging Caribbean churches to be more involved in world-wide missions."
"I think one of the more outstanding benefits would be a significant amount of programming that emphasises the theme of 'moving from mission field to mission force'. There is a movement in the Caribbean, encouraged by the Evangelical Association of the Caribbean, to encourage missionaries from the Caribbean to serve in other parts of the world. One radio programme especially, produced by Youth With A Mission, entitled Go Caribbean, airs on CGN five days a week and encourages this trend," he said.
Another aspect of how CGN is benefiting churches in the region is the realisation that the Caribbean has some excellent, world class Bible teachers. For example, one of the Caribbean's finest Christian communicators, may be speaking at a Keswick Convention in some other island, but now he/she is on CGN where thousands can hear the broadcast on a dozen islands.
Hollinger added that he would like to see more of the region's top Christian communicators becoming part of the Caribbean Gospel Network.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Potential programme producers may contact Trevor Smith, Caribbean Gospel Network, 3400 Raleigh Street, Hollywood, Florida 33021. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, you may contact Scott Hollinger, P.O. Box 8700, Cary, North Carolina 27512 USA. Mr. Hollinger's e-mail address is email@example.com You may also visit CGN's web site at www.cgnradio.com.