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Sat-7’s 20th anniversary

Thursday 24 March 2016, by SIGNIS

Rome, March, 24th, 2016 (Vatican Radio). SAT-7 has been broadcasting and featuring programmes that inform, entertain and build bridges reaching out to millions of viewers in the Middle East and North Africa for 20 years now. On the occasion of this important anniversary, the Executive Director of SAT-7 Europe, Asia and Pacific, Kurt Johansen, had a chat with Linda Bordoni of Radio Vatican.

“SAT-7 started 20 years ago, on a very small scale. No one had ever done this before: it was just a vision” says Johansen. “We started in faith, with very little resources, and we only had one hour of programming per week, and after a week we did not know what to do next, so we just repeated the same programme.”

Now, SAT-7 has five different channels that broadcast 24 hours per day, with studios in Egypt, in Lebanon and in Istanbul. He adds that it “currently broadcasts the good news to the whole of the Middle East, North Africa, the Gulf and Europe, in Arabic, in Turkish and in Farsi – the language of Iran.”

The main challenge for the founders of SAT-7 was to reach out to places where there are not many Christians who perhaps are scattered and divided in different denominations and in different countries. “To have one voice of unity for all these different groups was a challenge. But we have overcome that so today SAT-7 is the voice of the Christians of the Middle East” he says.

SAT-7 has programmes for audiences of any ages and any interests. He adds “We are trying to give the Christians a hope – because having a TV station also gives identity and legitimacy – so being there we can explain to everyone what is the role of Christians and we can give Christians themselves comfort and spiritual food”.

A survey shows that SAT-7 TV counts some 11 million viewers per channel. It also shows that one in three children in Iraq watches SAT-7 with the permission of their parents, and one in four children do so in Saudi Arabia. He points out that this means that many non-Christians watch the programmes fulfilling the station’s wish to act as a bridge amongst diverse communities.

Finally, speaking of plans for the future, Johansen says he is working to set up a new partnership which would provide the TV station with the resources needed to launch an important project: “We have a vision for another channel: a teaching channel for refugee children. There are 13 million children who are out of school in the Middle East. This is lost generation, and we have a vision to bring them education (…) “They have no schools, so we want to give them ‘an on-air’ school!”

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