Rhema Media

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Rhema Media
Industry Broadcasting
Predecessor Banbury Recordings International, Rhema Broadcasting Group
Founded Christchurch, New Zealand (1976 (1976))
Headquarters Auckland, New Zealand
Area served
New Zealand
Key people
Mike Brewer, CEO
Services 1978: Rhema
1995: The Word For Today
1997: Life fm
1997: Star
2002: Shine TV
2010: Word For You Today
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 or RBG) is New Zealand's largest Christian media organisation. It owns radio networks Rhema, Life fm and Star, and television station Shine, 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 media network is based at the Rhema Media building 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 (UCB).

Rhema Media's Mission and Vision[edit]

Mission: To connect Kiwis to Christ through Media

Vision: To make it possible for all people in New Zealand to access content that encourages a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, in the right format, at the right time.

What Rhema Media is all about[edit]

For almost 37 years, Rhema Media has been connecting people to Christ through its various networks, proclaiming the saving power of Jesus and the reality of God’s grace in their lives.

In 1978, Radio Rhema, the first permanent Christian radio station in the British Commonwealth, went on air, broadcasting in Christchurch. Today three nationwide radio networks, a national television station, two quarterly publications and digital equivalents collectively connect with over 350,000 people on a weekly basis.

Each day, testimonies from listeners, viewers and readers tell of how God has worked in their lives through something they have heard, seen or read on Rhema Media’s networks.

Rhema Media's heart and passion[edit]

"Rhema Media’s vision is to make it possible for all people in New Zealand to access content that encourages a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, in the right format, at the right time. We know that God reaches out and speaks through the messages and music on our networks to connect with people, wherever they are, to inspire, encourage, and bring real, positive change to their lives. Rhema Media’s desire is to be relevant and vital, bringing life-changing programming to all New Zealanders."



Rhema Media operates three nationwide radio networks.

  • Rhema, Rhema Media's flagship radio network, is fun and family-centred radio that reflects the values of Christ, plays the best-loved Christian music and highlights the issues of the day through a lens that listeners can identify with.
  • Life FM is vibrant, engaging and dynamic. Life FM entertains - playing the best Christian inspired pop, rock and urban music - and talks about the real-life issues affecting its audience in a way that points them to faith in Christ. The audience is young and young at heart. They are interested in who they are, how they can relate to others and how they can make a difference in their world. They want something more from life than the surrounding mainstream culture offers. Life FM is there for its listeners and helps to steer them towards Jesus by highlighting His relevance in today’s culture – all the while enjoying life, having a laugh and being ‘real’ about connecting their faith with life.
  • Star plays the Christian music you’ve loved for years! We’re a home for the Great Hymns of The Faith, Great Southern Gospel and easy-listening music of the last few decades and today. Added in to the mix are great teaching programmes and easy-going and uplifting chat with the hosts. The announcers are well-known and much-loved. Star reflects that life really does begin at 50 and has the music and teaching programmes to prove it, but... don’t tell the kids!


Rhema Media's Christian television network, Shine TV, is New Zealand’s first nationwide Christian television network - offering the best of uplifting international and local content. People across New Zealand appreciate how the mix of programmes encourage, inspire and strengthen them and their families – with messages from local and international teachers, life-changing work of mission groups and life story testimonies.

Shine provides a faith-based alternative. Teenagers and children have daily programming specifically for them, and each week Shine screens movies, documentaries and music to entertain and, ultimately, point people to a relationship with Jesus.

Shine can be viewed nationwide on Freeview Channel 25, Sky TV Channel 201 and online at shinetv.co.nz.

United Christian Broadcasters also owned a network 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.[1]

Daily Devotionals[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.

The Word For Today is a daily devotional by authors Bob and Debby Gass. The daily readings resonate with people as they often speak into their current circumstances. Often readers express wonder at how a particular day’s devotion appeared to be ‘written just for me’.

Every day, tens of thousands of people across New Zealand are encouraged and uplifted by The Word For Today's relevant insights. Peppered with practical tips and strategies on applying Biblical principles to life, The Word For Today also encourages readers to follow Christ and read His Word – the Bible. In August 2015, Rhema Media celebrated 20 years of publishing The Word For Today in New Zealand.

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 For You Today in February 2010 and an audio version is broadcast on Life FM. It meets teens and young adults right where they’re at, with language and life examples they can relate to, and inspires them in leading a Christlike life.

The origins of the devotionals 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 1995.[2] 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.[2]

History [1][edit]


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. In 2010 the company claimed about 40% of its audience was non-Christian. In 2010 the Government required all New Zealand radio networks to renew their commercial radio frequencies fir the following two decades. Rhema Media was required to raise $6.4 million to renew its commercial radio frequencies. The $6.4 million was raised, enabling all Rhema Media's radio networks to remain on air until the next commercial radio frequency renewals in 2030.

About 75% of the company's revenue comes donations from New Zealanders who believe in the mission and vision of Rhema Media.


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, 20-year-old 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.[3]

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 Broadcasting Authority was skeptical about the establishment of a Christian station owned and operated by evangelicals.[4] It rejected the station's application for a license in 1972, citing a lack of public interest and a lack of finance and professional staff.[3]


In 1974 Gospel Radio Fellowship changed the name of the station 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.[3] The broadcasts had to be medium wave, no more than 100 watts and live, and the station was instructed to only broadcast to supporters.[4] According to an official newsletter around 1975, the station was promoting itself as deeply evangelical — as "the one way sound" and as a "complete radio station ready for action to God be the glory".[5]

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] The station was originally allowed to broadcast six hours a day on weekdays and 18 hours a day on weekends. It became the first permanent Christian station in the British Commonwealth and one of the first Christian broadcasters in the world.[4]


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] This established the station as permanent, and allowed it roll-out a network around New Zealand.[5] The Rhema Media Group began the Life fm and Southern Star networks in 1997. In 1995, the New Zealand version of Bob Gass' hugely popular daily devotional The Word For Today was added to the suite. In 2003, Shine TV was launched. And in 2010, Word For You Today, a quarterly devotional for the younger generation, joined the group.

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.[6]

United Christian Broadcasters[edit]

Rhema vice-presidents Richard Berry, Hal Short and Frank Salisbury received several comments from people overseas hoping to emulate Rhema's broadcasting model. The trio set up a separate organisation, United Christian Broadcasters, as an umbrella body for autonomous affiliate broadcasting organisations in different parts of the world. The first affiliate in Australia supported new Christian radio stations, many called Radio Rhema, before becoming a broadcaster itself, operating as the Vision Radio Network. Other affiliates followed in the United Kingdom, Europe, Africa, Pacific countries, South America theDove in Oregon, United States. Smaller broadcasters were set up in Madagascar, Brazil, the Philippines and Estonia, through building up local support before receiving terrestrial licenses.[7]

UCB obtained the right to publish Bob Gass's The Word For Today daily devotional comment on Biblical passages in the United Kingdom in 1994. After an initial trial, Gass granted UCB the rights to broadcast, publish and distribute the devotional anywhere outside the United States free of charge.[4] At its height in 2011, UCB was a group of 32 organisations which claimed to reach millions of people in at least 24 different languages through radio, television, printed devotionals and websites. Several million copies of The Word for Today were published every quarter, in about a dozen languages.

Frequency renewals[edit]

The fifth Labour government put forward plans to renew radio frequencies in 2003, but Rhema Broadcasting Group and the Crown did not agree on the value of re-licensing until 2006. In July 2010, RBG announced it needed to raise $6.4 million over and above its normal operating costs to renew most of commercial radio frequencies around the country for the following 20 years.[8] By the end of November the company still needed 2.4 million and was not in a position to seek external finance.[9] The company faced the prospect of having to return the frequencies to the Crown to have them resold at auction if the money was not raised .[10] The Crown recognised the organisation as a non-profit with limited access to funds, refusing to waive its costs but giving it a three month extension on payment.[11]

Rhema Broadcasting Group covered the full cost with no interest loans required from the Government.

Recent changes[edit]

At the end of 2012, John Fabrin, who had headed up Rhema Broadcasting Group for 12 years, left the organisation to pursue other avenues.

Mike Brewer became chief executive in December 2012, after some time working in television, a decade at RadioWorks' Taranaki division and a further decade as the general manager of Fairfax New Zealand's Taranaki Newspapers company.[12] Under his leadership, Rhema Broadcasting Group was rebranded as Rhema Media in February 2014. Brewer said it reflected the fact the company was no longer focused on traditional means of broadcasting, and was moving to multimedia and digital-ready products. He said "people now increasingly consume media on their terms, utilising multiple ways to access the content they want, when and how they want it".[13]


  1. ^ "Shine TV now free on channel 44". Fairfax New Zealand. Nelson Mail. 24 October 2008. Retrieved 6 July 2015. 
  2. ^ a b www.ucb.co.uk The Word For Today & Bob Gass, accessed 2 May 09.
  3. ^ a b c d e Wooding, Dan (1 January 2003). Never Say Never: The Story of the Rhema Broadcasting Group: A Modern-Day Miracle. Auckland, New Zealand: Rhema Broadcasting Group. ISBN 0473099845. 
  4. ^ a b c d Atkinson, Perry (30 August 2011). "The United Christian Broadcasters Story - Hal Short - theDove.us" (Video interview). YouTube. Medford, Oregon: theDove. Retrieved 8 July 2015. 
  5. ^ a b "Radio Rhema newsletter, about 1975" (Historical artefact). Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Wellington, New Zealand: Alexander Turnball Library. 
  6. ^ "The Word". RBG. Retrieved September 24, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Rhema Broadcasting Group Chairman steps down" (Press release). Voxy.co.nz. Rhema Broadcasting Group. 8 March 2013. Retrieved 8 July 2015. 
  8. ^ Wooding, Dan (2010). "The future of Christian radio in New Zealand is 'at stake'". Identity Network. ASSIST Ministries. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  9. ^ Smith, Blanton (26 November 2010). "Christian radio group seeks $2.4m". Fairfax New Zealand. Taranaki Daily News. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  10. ^ Bennik, Nicole (24 September 2010). "Christian radio praying for a money miracle". Whitireia New Zealand. Newswire. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  11. ^ "Extra time to save broadcasting group". infonews.co.nz. Rhema Broadcasting Group. 30 November 2010. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  12. ^ Anthony, John (2 July 2013). "Newspaper boss moving on". Fairfax New Zealand. Taranaki Daily News. Retrieved 8 July 2015. 
  13. ^ "Rhemia Broadcasting Group rebrand to Rhema Media" (Press release). Voxy.co.nz. Rhema Media. 3 February 2014. Retrieved 8 July 2015. 

External links[edit]