The Good News Is...
By Audrey Y. Williams - Macon Telegraph, April 27th, 1996
Family sitcoms. "The Hour of Faith." Country music videos. "Macon at Worship." Macon Braves games.
The mix of shows on WGNM, Channel 64 is an eclectic one at best. "A lot of religious TV is just preaching, but we've always been different," said Don Wood, the station's general manager.
Channel 64 -- whose call letters stand for "Good News for Middle Georgia" -- is best known for its religious programs. It's owned by Macon Urban ministries, part of the Macon district of the United Methodist Church.
But now that WGNM airs programs from The United Paramount Network, viewers may link the station to something else.
"When we first got UPN we got a number of calls from people who were thrilled that "Star Trek" was on prime time," said Wood, a 20-year veteran at WGNM.
"Star Trek: Voyager" is UPN's flagship show. Other UPN programs include "Moesha," a sitcom about a modern middle class family that stars R&B singer Brandy Norwood; "The Sentinel" an action series about a cop with a super sense of hearing, sight, and smell, and "Minor Adjustments," a comedy about a teen psychologist who can relate to his clients, but not to his kids.
Wood calls UPN shows "middle of the road" -- they aren't Christian-oriented, but they're suitable for family viewing, he said.
"What (UPN) brought to us is by no stretch of the imagination religious programming," Wood said. "It was a big decision for us to air them."
Daisy Shaw, an avid Channel 64 viewer, thinks the station made the right move.
"My grandkids love 'Moesha,' said Shaw, 68. Whatever show comes on 64, I know I don't have to worry about them hearing bad language or anything like that."
Despite the whirlwind of change at the station's Beech Avenue studio, some things are still the same.
"We still do the Good News Show every day," Wood said.
The half-hour long local talk show was the only program in the station's lineup when it first went on the air in 1976 as a cable channel. In 1990, WGNM began broadcasting from the Cochran Short Route.
It now reaches people within a 35-mile radius of Macon. Last summer, the station begain airing 24 hours a day, with a Shop-at-Home program from midnight to 6 a.m.
"We try to have programs that would interest the entire community," Wood said.
WGNM also has a production ministry. The staff travels around the world, videotaping Methodist functions for the church. Most of the tapes are for sale at conferences and conventions. Some are aired on 64 and other Methodist stations. Wood said that with its full-time staff of 12, has "very low overhead." The bulk of their profit comes from the churches that pay for airtime for their sermons and local business advertising. The station also gets money from the production ministry and contributions from nearly 22,000 Methodists in the nine-county Macon District.
Revenue is important, Wood said, but so is the station's overall goal.
"The community needs positive TV," Wood said. "We're trying to make Macon a better place."