Rhema Media

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Rhema Media
Industry Broadcasting
Predecessor Banbury Recordings International, Rhema Media Group
Founded Christchurch, New Zealand (1976 (1976))
Headquarters Auckland, New Zealand
Area served
New Zealand
Key people
Mike Brewer, CEO
Services 1978: Rhema
1993: Life fm
1997: Star
2002: Shine TV
Website Rhema Media: Official
Rhema: Official
Rhema: Stream
Life fm: Official
Life fm: Stream
Star: Official
Star: Stream

Rhema Media (previously known as the Rhema Broadcasting Group) is New Zealand's largest Christian media organisation. It owns radio networks Rhema, Life fm and Star, and television station Shine TV, and publishes two local versions of a quarterly devotional publication The Word For You Today and Word For You Today (for the younger generation). The company is based at the Rhema Media Centre on Upper Queen Street in the central Auckland suburb of Newton, is named after its flagship radio network and is the founding organisation of United Christian Broadcasters.

Christchurch evangelical Richard Berry founded Rhema as an extension of his street preaching ministry, modeled on Ecudorian Christian short-wave radio station HCJB. The network extended nationwide in the 1980s, and the Life fm and Star networks followed in 1997. The future of some of the networks was brought into question in 2010, when the Government required Rhema Media to raise 6.4 million dollars to renew its commercial radio frequencies for the following two decades.[1]

The company aims for a more laid-back style than American Christian broadcasters, which it says are more "Bible-bashing" and less relevant to New Zealand's culture. Instead of constantly asking for donations on-air, the company hosts an annual donation drive for each of the three radio networks and Shine TV, in which hosts, celebrities and special guests campaign for one-off donations and subscriptions to its financial supporter club. About 70 percent of the company's revenue comes from donations.[2]



Rhema gained the endorsement of Pat Robertson in 1974.

Private radio was neither a reality nor a possibility when the Rhema network was first proposed in the 1960s. However, Richard Berry and a friend from the Salvation Army started a studio in Christchurch, in the garage of his Banbury Street home. The small evangelical ministry held prayers and recorded breaching - initially under the name Banbury Recordings and later as the Gospel Radio Fellowship. Berry drew his inspiration from the Biblical verses Matthew 7:7, Matthew 19:26 and John 14:12.

In the mid 1960s the group started preparing to begin broadcasting. Radio Hauraki had begun illegally broadcasting as a pirate station, and a government unable to enforce its regulations on the industry was forced to allow private broadcasting. Gospel Radio Fellowship used an old church building on Glenfield Crescent to set up new studios and a transmitter. The station failed to obtain a license in 1972 as Gospel Radio Fellowship, because the Broadcasting Authority believed there was not public interest in such a station, and that the station lacked professional staff and finance.[3]


In 1974 Gospel Radio changed its name to Radio Rhema, gained the endorsement of Pat Robertson and collected enough funding to employ Berry and twenty other staff. It failed to obtain a license on it first application, but received one-day licenses for Christchurch in November 1974, Petone in October 1975 and Christchurch for 10 days over Christmas in 1976.

At a hearing for a full license in 1978, after the three broadcasts, it had 7,235 members, 48,433 other supporters and the endorsement from churches and community groups. The application was successful and Radio Rhema was officially launched in November 1976. At the launch, prime minister Rob Muldoon said the station was inspired by "a faith that moves mountains".[3]


Rhema continued to develop during the 1980s. In 1980 the Christchurch station obtained an 18-hours-per-day license and had thirty five full-time and ten part-time workers. In 1982 it gained a license in Wellington and had property and six staff in Auckland.[3] The Rhema Media Group began the Life FM and Southern Star networks in 1997.

Bob McCroskrie hosted Radio Rhema's breakfast and talkback programme from 2002 to 2006, before setting up conservative lobby group Family First New Zealand in April 2006.[4] The organisation has campaigned against Boobs on Bikes, the electoral finance reform, child discipline reform and same-sex marriage.[5] McCroskrie has also urged political parties to adopt conservative Christian policies. Some Rhema Media advertisers are also financial backers of Family First.[6]

Former Radio Rhema daytime host Tim Sisarich, previously a More FM host and One News journalist, left up Radio Rhema to work for Focus on the Family and set up a New Zealand branch. The organisation has a similar agenda to its parent organisation in the United States, supporting a Citizens Initiated Referendum on the repeal of section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961.[7] Sisarich has spoken at churches and public meetings as a self-styled family man and parenting guru.[8]

The Word[edit]

From 2007 to 2015, Rhema also operated The Word - a network of relay stations broadcasting uninterrupted, pre-recorded, automated Bible readings to relay stations similar to UCB Bible.[9] Many of the recordings were from The Bible Experience Today's New International Version starring Samuel L. Jackson, Kirk Franklin, Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Denzel Washington.[10][11]

The network's original Hamilton 576 AM and Invercargill 1026 AM frequencies were acquired for Southern Star, but became available when Southern Star starting broadcasting on new AM Network stations in both cities.[12][13] The Word was later extended to New Plymouth 1278 AM, Christchurch 540 AM, Dunedin 1377 AM, Te Anau 88.0 FM, and an independently-owned low-power FM station in Tokoroa.[14] The station was also streamed via Winamp, Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, Quicktime, iTunes, BlackBerry and Symbian.[15]

Radio networks[edit]


Rhema, Rhema Media's flagship evangelical Christian contemporary music radio network, takes its name for the Biblical word rhema. The initial programme/station manager, John McNeil, laid the groundwork for what has the network's relaxed talk and music format, in which a limited number of teaching programmes are intermingled with music, news and interviews. As of 2015, the station features music programmes from Andrew Urquhart, George Penk, Diane Campbell, Luke Weston and Rosemary Jane, alongside Joyce Meyer, Focus on the Family and Adventures in Odyssey. Rhema is the founding network of United Christian Broadcasters, the namesake of many Australian radio stations, and the model for other UCB networks such as UCB Talk in the United Kingdom. Rhema participates in public service campaigns, including the annual nationwide Shake Out earthquake drill organised by the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management.[16]

Many of Rhema's guests discuss current issues affecting young families, like real estate, home loans, gardening and careers.[17][18][19] Other contributors include marriage and parenting speaker and author Nikki Bray.[20] Luke Weston, Rhema's drive host, previously hosted drive for UCB UK and Life FM.[21]

In 2009, the station cancelled an interview with children's author Margaret Mahy about her New Zealand history book Awesome Aotearoa: Margaret Mahy's History of New Zealand. Afternoon host Rob Holding told Mahy the book, featuring illustrations by Nelson cartoonist Trace Hodgson, was "over the tongue-in-cheek line, bordering on disrespectful in places". Mahy, a Christian, says she was puzzled by the reaction and never set out to offend, but understood different people had a different sense of humour.[22] Christian blogger Steve Taylor argued the book overlooked missionaries providing muskets to Māori during the Musket Wars, but overstated Samuel Marsden's reputation as the "flogging parson".[23] In 2013 Rob Holding endorsed The Valley of Dry Bones, a dance interpretation of the Ezekiel 37 and the events of the Holocaust. He commended the production for being high-quality, enthusiastic and evangelical.[24]

Frequencies include:

Life fm[edit]

Life fm is a contemporary Christian music youth-oriented radio network. It started at 2pm 6 March 1993 on 99.3 FM in Christchurch to the sound of U2 "In The Name Of Love" as a station broadcasting a mix of Christian and secular music. However, the frequency was leased from More FM and the station was shut down on Friday, 11 July 1997, and was moved to Auckland. It restarted Auckland, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty in 1997 as a dedicated Christian music network.

The station's flagship breakfast programme, The Morning Wake-Up, is currently hosted by Bjorn Brickell. Dan Goodwin presents the mid-morning show, Holly Wiseman hosts the early afternoon show, Asher Bastion presents in the later afternoons, and Josh Coombridge hosts the Nights show. George Penk hosts the Sunday night talkback show The Forum, Jayraj presents the Underground show late on a Sunday night, and Jon Clist presents The Homegrown show which highlights local Kiwi Christian music. Previous hosts include Cat, Diane Campbell, Ken Green, Mike OB, Elmo, Luke Weston, Paul Burnett, Bex, Frank Richie, Tom, Dan and Jase.

Account manager and contributor Justin St Vincent runs his own business and produces his own radio programmes, featuring reviews and interviews with artists like Moby, Rudimental, Daniel Bedingfield, Guns N’ Roses, Faith No More and The Prodigy discussing the spiritual side to music. St Vincent has interviewed thousands of musicians and produced thousands of musical features since 2007.[25] The features have been collated in books, e-books and CDs.[26]

Frequencies include:


Star (known as Southern Star until 2015) plays classic contemporary Christian music and hymns, alongside Biblical teachings. It was set up through a lease on spare programming time when Radio New Zealand's AM Network is not broadcasting sittings of the New Zealand Parliament, and also broadcasts on FM frequencies in minor centres.

The station's breakfast programme is hosted by founding staff member Cathy Jenke. Peter Shaw hosts mornings, Dudley Scantlebury covers afternoons, Aaron Ironside hosts the Drive show and Ross Browne presents the night programme. Rosemary Jane presnts the mid-dawn programme from midnight to 6am. Previous hosts include Rachel Thomas, Brian Ferguson, Glen Stephenson, UCB staff James Totton, Katikati His FM manager Rob Holding, Andrew Urquhart and Diane Campbell. Contributors include landscape designer and gardening expert Debbie Olsen, who previously hosted a gardening show on Radio Rhema.[18]

Frequencies include:

Other media[edit]

Shine TV[edit]

Shine TV
Launched 2002
Picture format PAL (576i) 16:9
Country New Zealand
Broadcast area National
Headquarters Auckland, New Zealand
Website Shine TV

Shine TV is a New Zealand Christian television channel operated by Rhema Media and broadcast on Freeview Channel 25 and Sky TV channel 201. It includes a mixture of locally made and overseas news and current affairs, documentaries, movies, children's programmes, teaching series, youth and music programmes.[27] Rhema Media was affiliated with United Christian Broadcasters when it owned the network of UHF station licences used by Prime TV but these were sold before Shine was launched.

Shine broadcast free-to-air on analogue in Christchurch from 2002. It expanded to Nelson on free-to-air analogue channel 44 on 11 November 2008, through a contract with local television channel Mainland TV. The channel ceased broadcasting on both frequencies on 28 April 2013, when South Island analogue television was switched off.[27]

News service[edit]

Rhema operated a dedicated news department between 2004 and 2014, and employed radio journalist Allan Lee to lead the department as news editor between 2004 and 2014. Lee previously worked for Newstalk ZB, producing radio bulletins, features and online stories for The Radio Network, Rhema and other affiliated stations. He had also trained as a TV producer and director the BBC. He went on to become head of content for Vision Radio Network, a affiliate of Rhema.[28]

From 2004 to 2007 Shine TV produced and broadcast its flagship current affairs programme Nzone. It aired Tuesdays and Thursdays at 20:00, and was hosted by Tim Sisarich and Bob McCoskrie. The programme opposed the criminalistion of corporal punishment in New Zealand and took a pro-life editorial stance to abortion. From 2007 to 2009 this became Nzone Tonight, a daily newscast and current affairs programme. The programme was presented by Rachel Thomas or Asher Bastion, with sports segments from Andrew Curtis or Brooke Dobson. The producer and lead reporter was Rhema Media Head of News and Current Affairs Allan Lee. Various Rhema staff members reported for the programme. Other stories were sourced from news affiliates Newstalk ZB and UCB UK and freely from Voice of America. After 2009 the programme has undergone a further relaunch as a thirty minute weekly television newsmagazine, broadcast first at 20:30 Fridays and again 21:30 Saturdays and 19:00 Sundays. The programme was presented by Davina William and Allan Lee, with reports from other members of the Rhema News team. The programme was produced by former TVNZ staffer Pene Thomas, until it was cancelled in April 2014.[29]

The Word for Today[edit]

Rhema Media is the New Zealand publisher of The Word For Today, a free daily devotional written by Bob Gass and published around the world by the United Christian Broadcasters group Rhema Meia founded. The origins of the devotional date back to 1992, when Bob Gass began jotting down various inspirations he had received based on over forty years of being involved in church leadership, and from Biblical principles and values instilled in him by his mother. After receiving a positive response in the United States, he offered his devotional readings to United Christian Broadcasters and its listeners.

An initial print run of 3,500 copies was made in April 1994 in the United Kingdom before it was later expanded to New Zealand in 1997.[30] An estimated 3.5 million copies are now distributed quarterly worldwide, with country-specific and translated versions also produced in Albania, Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Caribbean, the Netherlands, Estonia, Portugal, Philippines, Nigeria, South Africa, Spain and the USA.[30] In conjunction with The Message Trust, a Christian youth ministry based in Manchester, The Word For Today has been adapted for younger audiences with Word Word For You Today in August 2003 and an audio version is broadcast on Life fm.[30]


  1. ^ "Christian Radio Praying for Money Miracle". Newswire. Retrieved October 7, 2014. 
  2. ^ http://www.rhema.co.nz/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=13&Itemid=38
  3. ^ a b c Wooding, Dan (2003). Never Say Never: The Story of the Rhema Broadcasting Group: A Modern-Day Miracle, Rhema Broadcasting Group, 1/01/2003
  4. ^ "Drowning in depravity". Fairfax New Zealand. Sunday Star Times. 16 May 2009. Retrieved 6 July 2015. 
  5. ^ Mussen, Deidre (24 February 2009). "Who is Family First?". Fairfax New Zealand. Sunday Star Times. Retrieved 6 July 2015. 
  6. ^ Laugesen, Ruth (12 August 2007). "For God and country". Fairfax New Zealand. Sunday Star Times. Retrieved 6 July 2015. 
  7. ^ Focus on the Family (17 May 2007). "Lobby group offers help through smacking mess". Scoop. Retrieved 30 June 2008. 
  8. ^ Latif, Justin (23 May 2009). "Tim on mission to help families". Fairfax New Zealand. Western Leader. Retrieved 6 July 2015. 
  9. ^ "The Word". RBG. Retrieved September 24, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Zondervan". RBG. Retrieved October 7, 2014. 
  11. ^ "UCB Bible". UCB Media UK. Retrieved October 7, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Radio Vault Invercargill". Radio Vault. Retrieved September 24, 2014. 
  13. ^ "Radio Vault Hamilton". Radio Vault. Retrieved September 24, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Low Power FM Radio Stations". Web Wiz Guide. Retrieved October 7, 2014. 
  15. ^ "The Word". Bible Radio. Retrieved September 24, 2014. 
  16. ^ Chipp, Jim (21 September 2012). "Drop, cover and hold". Fairfax New Zealand. Kapi-Mana News. Retrieved 6 July 2015. 
  17. ^ "FindMy Real Estate Agent news highlights". findmyrealestateagent.co.nz. FindMy Limited. Retrieved 6 July 2015. 
  18. ^ a b "About us". sanctuarygardenslandscaping.co.nz. Sanctuary Gardens. Retrieved 6 July 2015. 
  19. ^ "About us - Team". careersure.co.nz. Career Sure. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  20. ^ "Speakers". familylife.co.nz. Family Life New Zealand. Retrieved 6 July 2015. 
  21. ^ "Luke Weston". linkedin.com. Luke Weston. Retrieved 6 July 2015. 
  22. ^ "Rhema says no to Mahy". Fairfax New Zealand. The Press. 9 May 2009. Retrieved 6 July 2015. 
  23. ^ Taylor, Steven. "cartooning history: some thoughts on Margaret Mahy’s Awesome Aotearoa". emergentkiwi.org.nz. Steven Taylor. Retrieved 6 July 2015. 
  24. ^ "The Valley of Dry Bones". stuff.co.nz. eventfinda.co.nz. Retrieved 6 July 2015. 
  25. ^ Moyes, Sarah (25 November 2009). "Justin pursues music’s meaning". Fairfax New Zealand. East & Bays Courier. Retrieved 6 July 2015. 
  26. ^ "Xtreme Music". xtrememusic.org. Justin St Vincent. Retrieved 6 July 2015. 
  27. ^ a b "Shine TV now free on channel 44". Fairfax New Zealand. Nelson Mail. 24 October 2008. Retrieved 6 July 2015. 
  28. ^ Lee, Allan. "About us - Adventures in Oz". stormydog.co.nz. Stormy Dog Productions. Retrieved 6 July 2015. 
  29. ^ Rhema History
  30. ^ a b c www.ucb.co.uk The Word For Today & Bob Gass, accessed 2 May 09.

External links[edit]