The president of a Christian music video network has some advice for parents who would welcome a religious alternative to MTV into their homes:
The message on the rapidly growing Z Music Television is different, but the musical styles--from rock to rap to heavy metal--have the same sound and fury found on other music television networks.
About the only thing that could derail the rapidly growing Nashville-based network is an enthusiastic parental seal of approval, said its president, Ken Yates.
"What the parents ought to do," he said, "is take a good look at it, realize its content, and then just keep quiet."
Give young people cool music that is not parent-approved and many will be open to contemporary Christian music, according to Graham Barnard, network programming manager and host of the music channel's Z Buzz segments, which feature artist interviews and news about the Christian music industry.
"Music and television combined is probably the most powerful influence for the minds and hearts of this generation," said Yates, who believes that society benefits by having an alternative to the sexually explicit MTV channel.
Since its start in 1993, Z Music Television has grown so much that it is now offered in 17 million cable households, network officials say. It reaches another 13 million households at least part of the day on broadcast stations. Its goal is to reach 30 million cable households by 2000, Yates said.
In their pitch to cable system operators, Z Music officials portray the network as an alternative to MTV for the more than 50 million adults who listen to and buy Christian music. What the Nashville Network is to fans of country music, Z Music is for people who enjoy contemporary Christian music, company officials say.
There are no videos by Nine Inch Nails or Snoop Doggy Dogg on Z Music television. Excessive sex or violence are out.
"Any illicit activity, if it's too libertine, we don't put it on the air," said Barnard.
The hit artists and groups on Z Music are popular Christian performers such as Amy Grant, Petra, DC Talk, Michael W. Smith and Gary Chapman. And their messages convey hope and encouragement.
"The videos that we play on Z have a very high standard, [in] both the visual and lyrical content," he said.
But screening out videos glorifying violence or sex outside of marriage does not mean the music or images on the Z channel have to be dull, network officials say.
Young people turning on Z can hear rap, rock and other contemporary music that appeals to their generation, Barnard said.
One Z Music show that Barnard says should blow away stereotypes about Christian music is "The Brimstone Chronicles." On the show, a long-haired host introduces heavy metal and grunge music from an industrial club set.
"The musicality is right in step with what's going on in the culture," Barnard said.