An impossible dream
For ten years before our first broadcast, the vision of a Christian, Arabic-language satellite channel had been growing in the mind of Terence Ascott, a Brit working in the Christian publishing industry in Egypt.
At first it seemed little more than an impossible dream. It was in 1991 that the concept of an Arabic satellite TV channel began to seem realistic. Still Arab Christians thought it was beyond their reach to have any media presence.
Over the next few years, research and feasibility studies were done and partners rallied behind the vision. Finally, in November 1995, SAT-7 was born at a founding meeting in Larnaca, Cyprus.
The first broadcast
Six months later, the first two-hour SAT-7 Arabic broadcast went on the air. It included a programme for children, some testimonies, and a film about persecuted Christians in China. On the last day of May 1996, an Egyptian Christian sat down in front of his television set and saw something he had never seen on Arabic TV before: a female presenter with a cross around her neck.
To see a representative of the almost invisible Arab Christian minority on screen was such a shock to him that he just had to call the station and say, “Mish maoul! (This is unbelievable!)”
From that first simple broadcast, SAT-7 has gone on to radically change the image of Christianity in the Arab world.
The ministry’s satellite presence has grown to five 24/7 satellite channels: three in Arabic including one dedicated children’s channel, one in Farsi, and one in Turkish.
When SAT-7 started broadcasting in 1996, satellite TV was cutting edge technology. But since then, the rise of the Internet, social media and wide availability of a multitude of mobile devices is changing the way people access information.
Throughout the last 20 years, SAT-7 has developed with the times, moving from analogue to digital broadcasts, and taking advantage of the explosion of social media. Despite Internet restrictions, SAT-7’s impact online is growing rapidly. Every month, there are more than 1.7 million downloads of our YouTube videos and we are reaching even more via Facebook.
As people increasingly look for “on demand” content, SAT-7 is looking at how we can be more deliberate and offer different viewers something that is relevant to them, meets their needs and will also move them towards a closer relationship with God.
Over SAT-7’s 20 years on air, viewers have grown in their understanding of Christianity. When SAT-7 first started, it was a shock for people to see that Middle Eastern Christians even existed.
Today there is a much higher level of awareness of who Middle Eastern Christians are, what they believe and what they practice. People no longer call a show to ask the basic questions about Christianity. Therefore the content we produce will develop to help people go deeper in their faith.
God has worked, and continues to work, in and through SAT-7 to make the Good News of Jesus visible across the Middle East and North Africa.