Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 27, 2004
Sky Angel winged his way to heaven
Light One Candle
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
The Christophers recently lost a friend when Robert W. Johnson died. Johnson was the founder, chairman and CEO of a company called Dominion Video Satellite, Inc., and the creator of a communications system known as the Sky Angel direct-to-home satellite television service.
As the name suggests, Sky Angel was a spiritual powerhouse for bringing faith to people throughout the world.
In many ways, Robert Johnson's achievement was a classic Christopher story. Like many people, Johnson didn't like a lot of what was presented on popular television. He found the celebration of totally secular values to be a missed opportunity.
He decided not just to complain, but actually to do something about it, and sought some way to bring Christian hope directly into people's homes.
A former teacher and administrator at the University of Detroit in the field of business, Johnson had founded a consulting firm in 1970 to advise companies on consumer products and services.
In 1980, with his new goal in mind, Johnson began work on the early technology of high-power direct-broadcast satellite. He reasoned that he could bypass the major television networks to bring a God-centred message into the homes of families throughout the world. And not just into homes; he envisioned a satellite station that could bring the compassion of Christ into prisons, nursing homes, shelters for the homeless and educational institutions.
Happily, his mission and his knowledge of this new technology also matched the first attempts at this kind of television satellite communications. In fact, in 1981, the Federal Communications Commission decided it would permit just a few companies to advance this style of communications.
Johnson's was the second application received by the FCC. Of the many others who requested FCC approval, only nine were granted approval. Today, none of the original petitioners still works in the field, except for Sky Angel, one of only four U. S. companies to own and operate a high-power Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS).
Over all these years, Robert Johnson maintained a simple but significant goal. His company outlined it this way: "Our mission is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world. And to provide families everywhere with a Christ-centred and family-safe television alternative in their homes."
Over the years, Johnson was offered many possibilities for cashing in, for selling his satellite station for financial reward. But he never compromised.
Johnson knew that he was helping millions of families who wanted to be able to turn on the TV and feel confident that they wouldn't be embarrassed by the content of the programming. There'd be no racy scenes, no compromising language. No shock for shock value alone.
But there would be television that matters . . . television that comforts . . . television that encourages belief in God . . . television with a positive and life affirming message.
We say at The Christophers that "It's better to light one candle than to curse the darkness." Robert Johnson did just that. He didn't despair over the state of popular television, he offered an alternative. He didn't just shake his head and hope that someone, somewhere would do something it.
No, he got involved.
He got committed.
And he made a difference for the good.
I hope the same will be said of each one of us.
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Being a Good Neighbour, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: email@example.com.)
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