PROVO, Utah — With more than a third of the world’s Mormons now living in Central and South America and the Caribbean, new Spanish-language and Portuguese-language television programming is being launched from the campus of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

BYU and BYU Broadcasting are operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

BYU Broadcasting technician activates new BYU Television International signal. © Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU. © 2007 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

The rapid growth of the Church in Central and South America has spurred the creation of BYU Television International. Latter-day Saints living in Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean now total more than 4.7 million — approximately 38 percent of the Church’s worldwide membership, which is approaching 13 million.

BYU Television International is not just for Latter-day Saints.

“Cable operators are telling us they are interested in receiving the signal because program content will appeal to all educated and informed people of their countries — those who can make a difference,” reported Elder John C. Pingree, a lay Church leader who assisted with the trade-show announcement in Cartagena, Colombia.

“One operator told us: ‘Your programs are of the highest quality — without the violence and sex we see on other U.S. channels and on the channels of our own countries. This is what we want and need.’”
More than 90 cable operators and home satellite providers from Central and South America, the Caribbean and the United States have signed carriage commitments, far exceeding BYU’s expectations. Most of these operators and providers had learned about the new channel only days before the launch at a cable system and home satellite trade show in Cartagena.

BYU Television International carries content from BYU and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Programs include educational offerings, documentaries, musical and dramatic performances, sports, religious instruction and other programs intended to address social issues and strengthen individuals and families.

BYU Television International content will not be identical to that of BYU Television, which reaches 44 million homes throughout the United States via the Dish Network, DirecTV and 180 cable systems.
“Although we have some translated programs, we want to clarify this is not a channel that simply translates U.S. programs into Spanish and Portuguese,” says Derek Marquis, managing director of BYU Broadcasting. “We have learned much through our research of audience content preferences, and we have tried to address cultural differences through a different mix of programming.”

Marquis explains that overwhelming response to BYU Television by viewers in Peru in 2005 prompted discussions and analysis of opportunities in Latin America. This led to a substantial donation from Rex and Ruth Maughan of Phoenix, Arizona, making possible the expansion of services and the launch of BYU Television International.

BYU Television International will also be made available to cable and home satellite providers in the United States and will soon be carried by Comcast cable in northern Utah.