ACB / ACM 22 YEARS
The ACB / ACM was born out of some amazing and unexpected miracles 22 years ago, and has been born again twice since then.
In 1993, an evangelism group in a church in Fish Hoek, Cape Town thought that radio might be a good way to reach out to the local community. Remember, in those days, radio was a few big government controlled SABC stations, and two "homeland" stations – Capital Radio & 702. To apply for a church radio station seemed crazy. But they did. And some months later, a broadcast license arrived by fax ... yes, this was before the days of email! A few one-month licenses were granted to Radio Fish-Hoek as it was called, and they became the "authority" on how to apply for and run a small Christian community radio station. The team there under their pastor, John Thomas could hardly run the operation between telling everyone else how to do it. The way to solve the problem would be a conference where everyone could come together and have a look!
At the same time, TWR's Martin Frische saw the changes coming, and with them the opportunity of different Christian radio stations working together with Christian content and music suppliers He started talking to the NRB, a similar organisation in the USA. As he called the States, John Thomas was also there in the office of the NRB. The ACB was miraculously coming together.
At about the same time, the door was opened for TBN in the Ciskei, and Christian TV arrived in Southern Africa. Bernard Roebert was appointed to head up TBN's Africa office, and Trinity Broadcasting Network became part of the new ACB.
The first conference in March 1994 drew some 80 delegates, representing people who were interested in starting Christian radio stations and TV stations, as well as content, music and technology providers. The ACB was born.
The first period of existence of the ACB was ably led and managed by Martin Frische and the TWR SA office. During this time the first one-year community radio license in the country was granted to ACB member Radio Maritzburg then more Christian radio stations were licensed throughout South Africa. But this was not without challenge, as the community of interest category under which Christian stations were licensed was challenged in proposed amendments to legislation in 1998/9. A march to parliament led by John Thomas and the Radio Fish-Hoek / CCFM team in Cape Town was among the strategies employed by the ACB members. The challenge abated, but Christian radio licenses continued to be under threat.
The next major life-threatening challenge in the ACB's life was in about 2002. TWR was no longer able to carry and sponsor the organisation. Anthony Barkhuizen was given the mandate to tour South Africa talking to members to determine whether the ACB should continue, and what role it should play. It was time for the ACB to step out and grow up. The 2003 conference at Good News conference centre in Gauteng saw Rainbow FM's Humphrey Birkenstock elected as chairman and Dave Hotchkiss appointed as part-time General Manager. Other members including TBN, Radio Pulpit and Kenneth Copeland ministries stepped forward to carry much of the financial responsibility.
Over the next few years satellite TV developed and the community radio broadcasters matured.
In 2005, the annual ACB conference graduated from Christian conference centres to the much smarter hotel venue, with the first new-look conference being hosted and sponsored by TBN at the Halyard's Hotel in Port Alfred. Since then, the ACB / ACM conference has continued to enjoy generous sponsorship from various members, in particular Radio Pulpit, Radio Tygerberg, TBN and Link-FM.
By 2010, the digital revolution was having a major impact on media and broadcasting, and it was time for the next step in ACB / ACM's development. A leadership summit was called and about 40 delegates representing some 30 ACB members met at Willow Park in Johannesburg. Digital convergence of media meant that there was no longer a clear distinction between radio, television, print and new internet-based media. The ACB was being called to encompass other media, and to transform into the ACM ... the Association of Christian Media. That was a unanimous decision, but what was less obvious is what this new organisation would look like. The summit produced some very ambitious goals without a funding model to sustain them. The ACM board grappled with this over the period following the summit. It was another very challenging time for the ACB / ACM.
The ACB officially became the ACM at the AGM in June 2012. Jackie Georgiou of Joy Magazine, representing print media was elected to the chair. Prior to this, Dave Hotchkiss resigned as General Manager of the ACM to pursue a commitment to Vuma FM, the first commercial Gospel music radio station licensed in South Africa, and Natalie Turco was appointed to administer the organisation. A new phase in the development of the ACM was born. Change was not as dramatic as had been wished by some at the 2010 summit, but we are now a clearly focussed organisation with increased membership, improved communication and training and sound finances.
Looking back over the last twenty two years, we can only give thanks to the Lord for the miraculous way in which He has sustained the organisation He called into being twenty two years ago. The ACM goes forward in faith, looking to the Creator God for direction, so that the ACM may fulfil its purpose.