50 years of Trans World Radio

Trans World Radio (TWR) is celebrating 50 years of reaching people through radio and is marking the milestone with a new app for smartphone and tablet users.

TWR broadcasts Christian radio to 160 countries in over 200 languages, "introducing people to Christ, one listener at a time".

It aims to attract new listeners with the app, enabling them to listen to TWR's programmes on the go.

Dr Russell Farnworth, Chief Executive Officer of TWR-UK, spoke on the app launch, the past 50 years of radio ministry, and the digital future.

What is the purpose of this new app?

Russell: It's really to open up a new platform so people can listen to our programmes via smartphone or tablets. We're hoping that younger people will want to download it. But obviously more and more people are listening digitally to radio anyway. We'll be spending a lot of time trying to make people aware of its existence to go and get it.

How are you going to promote the app to the public?

Russell: Most of the communities [we broadcast to] have churches so we can go to those churches and tell them to pass it on to their neighbours and friends. It is a long process, but we're making sure that people are aware. At the end of the day you can have all these things operating but if no one knows that they're available they won't go and listen to them.

How has the launch been received internationally?

Russell: As well as broadcasting to the UK, TWR-UK is part of the worldwide TWR family. This app seems to be being received quite well. I think in the Arabic ministries have had quite a high rate of take-up. Perhaps a lot of people in Arab countries are used to using technology of the like.

Have you faced anything particularly challenging over the past 50 years?

Russell: Originally, TWR-UK was only able to broadcast for a couple of hours each day - usually late at night. But the arrival of satellite in the 1990s opened up the possibility of 24/7 broadcasting. This was a major challenge for TWR-UK and it opened up our ministry to many more people. Finance is always a challenge for any voluntary organisation and I think particularly this past recession has gone on for so long. While we've been blessed with our supporters who have continued to keep up their level of support, we haven't really been able to grow our support as much as we would have liked.

What about TWR do you personally value?

Russell: A little while ago, I visited a church. An elderly man approached me and, with tears in his eyes, told me how he had come to Christ by listening to TWR. He was so grateful and I was so humbled. But it's a story that can be repeated all over the world and in dozens of languages. That's what TWR is all about - introducing people to Christ, one listener at a time.

What are TWR-UKs plans in the longer term?

Russell: We're always looking for effective ways to deliver our content. For example in the UK we would like to explore more opportunities for digital radio. Internationally we still tend to use major intercontinental transmitters, for example the latest one is a transmitter that we're calling Panni. Its footprint is Pakistan and India. Also we're launching internationally, not just for the UK, an app called TWR-360, which is a way of listening to Christian radio content in lots of different languages. At the moment it is in half a dozen or so - in English, Latin American Spanish, Arabic and Chinese so far. But the hope is to extend the number of languages available.

TWR-UK's Free App is available from stores in October, providing access to TWR-UK programmes and mission information.