Gospel Music Channel, the nation's first 24-hour music television channel dedicated to all styles of gospel music, is being cut from numerous city networks under DirecTV, the nation's leading satellite television service provider.
As of Mar. 14, DirecTV discontinued ten city markets carrying the Atlanta-based Gospel Music Channel including Austin, Dallas, Denver, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Orlando, Paducah, Philadelphia and San Antonio for business-related reasons..
Christians in the areas are discouraged by the situation, because it removes content that is safe to watch with the family. Christian Grammy award-winner Kirk Franklin even wrote an email in response to the predicament after he saw a message on the bottom of a program he was watching announcing the closures.
"This disturbed me," said Franklin in the letter, "as not only an artist who greatly appreciates the opportunity to share their ministry with the world through the vehicle of television, but also a Christian and parent who greatly appreciates wholesome television programming that my entire family can watch and enjoy without worrying about what images are going to pop on the screen."
"With all of the chaos and negativity in the world today, it is important that people, Christian and non-Christians alike, have outlets they can turn to such as Gospel Music Channel whose programming consistently speaks of the hope, peace and love of Christ in the midst of troubled times," he added.
Despite the losses, representatives from the Gospel Music Channel say the outlook is still extremely positive for the network since it was pulled only due to unrelated business issues and not because of any lack of success. Audience members should not be disheartened, they added.
"I don't want people to think that just because DirecTV has to make business decisions on 10 local markets that it's indicative that the direction the channel is in," Charles Humbard, president and CEO of Gospel Music Channel, told The Christian Post. "People like DirecTV are very sports-focused and right now are trying to compete with cable by launching a lot of high-definition programs, which are a real bandwidth hog. They have to make business decisions to take things off the local market."
"The good news is that we've had a high response in all of our markets," added Brad Siegel, vice chairman of Gospel Music Channel.
In a Neilson coincidental done on the Dallas market four weeks after its launch, Gospel Music Channel was viewed by 27 percent of the Dallas marketplace over the last 7 days, which is "an extremely high number," according to Siegel. There is also awareness of the channel in 60 percent of the market.
In a recent national study that is released every year, research was done to see which channel people wanted launched. Out of thousands of channels in the 2006 study, Gospel Music Channel was number one on the list.
"It's gaining momentum," encouraged Humbard, "and it's picked as the number one channel to add, ahead of the NFL network and many, many others."
According to Gospel Music Channel's website, their vision is to "be the most popular and valued gospel music television brand across America and around the world," and "to make a positive impact on our world by spreading the positive message of our music and extending help to those in need."
The network recently received its first Dove Award nomination, also known as the "Christian Grammy," in February for its involvement as Casting Crowns' production company. The band's new hit CD, Lifesong Live was exclusively aired on the station.
The channel, as well as Franklin, is encouraging fans of the programming to speak to DirecTV and voice their passion for the channel. On a web page at www.gospelmusicchannel.com, they list directions on how to approach DirecTV.
"I am inviting my fellow artists, industry associates, radio announcers, friends and fans to join with me in letting DirecTV know that as paying subscribers to their service, it is important to us to they keep the quality programming that Gospel Music Channel offers in their channel lineup," said the Christian solo artist in his letter.
"Let's not miss this opportunity to stand together and bring about change for Kingdom purpose!"
Correction: Friday, March 16, 2007
An article on Friday, March 16, 2007, about DirecTV discontinuing the Gospel Music Channel television network in ten markets incorrectly reported that the withdrawals were due to low viewing statistics. According to Gospel Music Channel representatives, the network has actually received strong ratings, and the discontinuances are only due to business-related reasons.