Sirius XM, Southern Gospel, and Enlighten

If you don’t have satellite radio in your vehicle (or listen to it on satellite TV as I do) and aren’t a fan of Southern Gospel music you probably aren’t aware of recent events. Sirius/XM is redoing their channels and, to make room for other programming they decided to kick Enlighten, the southern gospel channel, from their satellite programming. The move created a firestorm of protest. Sirius XM’s response was that the channel would still be available on their internet mix. They suggested that listeners might enjoy listening to some of the other Christian channels that feature Praise and Worship or Christian Contemporary.

The thing is that Southern Gospel fans may be outnumbered by Christian Contemporary listeners, but the SG fans are very loyal.

Almost by accident, XM (before the merger) created a national SG outlet that became a magnet for fans in North America. Every gospel group wanted to be on Enlighten. When Enlighten was threatened those same gospel groups told their audiences everywhere to contact Sirius/XM and protest the move.

And protest they did. Most of these satellite subscribers joined to listen to that specific channel. If Enlighten was gone so were they. Using the Internet they informed people about this and organized to fight back, especially in the language New York executives understand: money.

To the NY programming people there’s no difference between Contemporary, Black, and Southern Gospel so they thought they could herd all the SG fans over to one of the other channels. When people complained, they just offered them three months free to “try out” the other Christian music channels. How shocked they must have been when several responded with, “no thanks – just cancel my subscription.”

I know this cuts both ways. There are many Contemporary Christian music fans who would just walk away if they were being herded to an all SG channel. On the other hand, CCM fans more often have a local radio solution than do SG fans. We have the largest Christian station in the country(KSBJ) here in Houston and they do a fine job. It’s unlikely that a lot of people from this area have gone to satellite to listen to CCM.

On my last few major road trips I’ve looked for good SG stations and have been disappointed. In one case the local station was obviously an amateur operation, almost entertainingly so. In another case, they were dropping in about 4 SG songs an hour between commercials and paid programming. In my opinion those stations had the most to win in the latest satellite saga. They exist in the US southeast, which is the heart of SG. I’m sure they’ve been abandoned in favor of the non-stop music format of Enlighten.

Anyway, it’s only because of thousands and thousands of emails, phone calls, and especially cancellations of service that SG remains on Sirius/XM today. Indeed, money talks. Enlighten has survived and Southern Gospel fans are rejoicing!

4 thoughts on “Sirius XM, Southern Gospel, and Enlighten

  1. Good analysis, Brother Scott:

    Let me share my situation..In Northern Ohio, we had a general Christian Statiion, WTOF 98.1, that was the traditional Christian station for our area for over 30 years..They played some SG, but played CCM, praise when that became popular, and local and national preachers..That station was sold to Salem, which decided they didnt want to be in Canton anymore, so they sold the station to Clear Channel. Salem also for a time had a Solid Gospel affiliate In Akron, WHLO, which was sold to Clear Channel..The point is, Companies always seem to short the older folks that like Southern Gospel/Hymmns and Conservative preaching..They always go for the modern-CCM crowd..Sort of unfair I think..

    Tim Lones

    Canton, Ohio

  2. Thanks for the input Tim. I wonder if SG doesn't hurt itself by (1) not clearly defining the genre and (2) not being professional enough. You'll hear everything from twangy country to contemporary music being called Southern Gospel. When I tell my friends at church that I like SG they often respond that they don't like "country music." In my mind they are quite different styles of music, but I know that many SG outlets mix the two as though they are one in the same. Also, there are some very nice people out there singing SG that aren't musically all that capable. The flow of a radio station that plays SG can be very uneven. It's one thing to play a local group and say that this is local (often a tip that these are nice people who support the station and will sing specials at your church) and something else altogether to just throw them in with groups that are obviously big league. To a big company with professional programmers, the "sound" as a whole is amateurish. This reflects poorly on the entire genre.

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