The transition of the Premier Chief Executive Officer Peter John Kerridge, a radio pioneer committed to Jesus Christ on Saturday 8th June 2024, left a legacy of a struggling radio station into Europe’s most prominent Christian media organisation. Six months after Premier Radio was launched to great fanfare on June 10, 1995 ‘the station was in deep financial trouble. David Heron, a former stockbroker, stepped in to help the young station back on its feet. One of the first things he did in his role as Premier’s new chairperson was to invite Peter to come on board as managing director.’ Peter became an ‘undertaker’ who ‘mid-wife’ a struggling Premier Radio station in a ‘spiritually hungry nation.’ Peter’s legacy points to radio’s power with the potential to turn the psyche and society into a single echo chamber, thereby promoting accessible communication of the gospel to an audience of millions.

Effective Gospel communication is more than the mere transmission of information. In an age when information is easy to find, information without transformation is not only worthless, without transformation Jesus is just information (Rom 12:2). Effective gospel communication is a distinctive human and divine process of an in-depth ministry to a selected group and a ministry to all kinds and classes of people. [1] Radio, as a way of effectively communicating between two points, offers accessible opportunities to communicate the gospel. Robertson describes Radio as a free and flexible channel of broadcasting with two ends: the broadcaster and the listener point to the same audience with some new information. On Jan 2, 1921, Pittsburgh radio station KDKA becomes the first to broadcast a religious program over the airwaves and it featured a religious service from the Calvary Episcopal Church. The first Christian-owned radio station, ‘The Gospel Voice,’ came on air on Sunday, December 14,1924, at 9:15p.m. It was KFUO (Keep Forward, Upward, Onward) of St. Missouri, and its founder was Walter A. Maier. [2]

For Peter, Premier Radio, the first Christian radio station launched in the United Kingdom in the summer of 1995, is about building for the future of the United Kingdom Church, the first-ever Christian Broadcasting House. Considering the historical circumstances of Premier Radio, it appeared that the Radio was seeking a credible ‘undertaker.’ Within a few years of Peter’s leadership of Premier Radio, with his vision and concept of doing things in the spirit of Christ, the ‘undertaker’ became the ‘mid-wife’ who facilitated the current state of the Radio today based on his experience of launching and managing media enterprises. Peter’s transforming leadership innovation that changed the landscape of Christian broadcasting goes beyond the private sector or entrepreneurship approach. Premier’s deputy CEO Kevin Bennett aptly explained, “When you look back at the history of Premier, you can see the various times in which Peter’s energy and his drive were the defining things that either kept Premier going or helped it go to the next level.” Peter, the Premier mid-wife with new idea ‘worked diligently in navigating Premier into becoming a “national media enterprise” with a digital future,’ and Christian media networks in the world.

In his book, If Entrepreneurs Ran the Church: New Vision for an Old Church, Peter’s application of an entrepreneur is beyond business management, customer service, critical thinking, and creative or problem-solving skills. These skills are essential but not the foundation. The foundation of the entrepreneur Peter had in mind is first of Christ, and Peter was such an example of an entrepreneur committed first to Jesus Christ and endowed with courage, capability, and confidence through the Holy Spirit. Peter’s book beyond improving the churches’ fortunes points to the churches’ future in Jesus Christ. Peter, a brand plugged from surgery when it was discovered that part of his gut had become strangulated, said to his mother while in the hospital, “I think God must have something for me to do because I wouldn’t be here otherwise.” 

Peter, a model entrepreneur who could run the church with a new vision for an old church, was not without a mentor, Kenneth Wolstenholme. Peter, at age 17, worked for an insurance company before volunteering as a football reporter on hospital radio and worked under the mentorship of Wolstenholme in Radio professionally at Newcastle’s Metro Radio in 1979. He later ‘branched out from football commentary into other strands of radio that caught his interest – always with the end goal of using the medium to spread the gospel.’

Peter, from a church-planting Baptist family in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, started training for the Baptist ministry in 1986 and read theology at Regent’s Park College at the University of Oxford. Peter’s Christian faith began at the age of seven, and he was later called to ministry, ‘Beacon Lough was his sending church.’ He was Associate Minister at Avenue Baptist Church in Southend-on-Sea before he began his career as a broadcaster on Metro Radio in 1979 and later became head of radio development at Essex Radio Group. Peter worked with a community group in Harlow to develop a local license bid that resulted in the launch of ten17 FM and prepared a license application for Vibe FM in East Anglia.  He worked in both the commercial sector and the BBC. He was named Managing Director of Premier Radio in 1996. He became the CEO on June 10, 2005, aiming “to help the church present the gospel in ways that the United Kingdom population can hear and comprehend.” 

Peter brought to the limelight that radio is an unrestricted medium that can reach the poor and the rich, with no race or creed barriers, and can reach the professional and the uneducated. Indeed, Radio covers more territory with the gospel in fifteen minutes than the average missionary could cover in many months. The beginning of local Radio and independent local Radio in many towns and areas in the United Kingdom through the developments of the 1990 Broadcasting Act was an open door for gospel communication. [3]

Premier Radio has a vision for a future where Christianity is alive, vibrant, and relevant to grow a Church without walls, reaching and disciplining a new generation in the Christian faith.’ For Peter, there is an urgent task for ’a spiritually hungry nation.’ Peter said, “At a time where more and more churches are haemorrhaging young people, weekly attendance is dropping, and culture is becoming more hostile to the Christian faith, making a difference in the spiritual landscape of our nation is critical. While the church faces serious challenges, emerging generations seem more open to faith than ever. It is our duty and shared responsibility to present Jesus in a way that connects with people from all backgrounds and lifestyles.” [4]

As the most prominent Christian media organisation in Europe, Premier is to ‘enable people to put their faith at the heart of daily life and to bring Christ to their communities.’ Peter’s vision to impact the future of Christianity in the United Kingdom is to move Premier Radio to a historic church in the heart of the City of London, St Michael Paternoster Royal, rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London and the Church of Lord Mayor Dick Whittington. Peter’s legacy remains a ‘bold statement on the future of the Church and focus on six key strategic areas to: raising the next generation of Christians; enabling people to place faith at the heart of daily life; building confidence to share and defend the Gospel; helping Christians understand national and global events from a Christian perspective; influencing Government to protect freedom of thought, speech and religion; and resourcing local churches to thrive in their communities.’

Peter, a model of an entrepreneur who can run the church, is always inspiring and innovating. Roger Bolton, a former chair of Premier’s board of trustees, explained that Peter was ‘utterly committed to his Christian faith and to Premier. He was one of the earliest to grasp the scale of the digital revolution and ensured that, far from being left behind, Premier was in the advance guard. A new day, a new idea. He achieved the extraordinary transformation of a small startup into one of the most important Christian media networks in the world. Without his drive, vision and ambition, it would not have happened.” 

A key hallmark of Peter’s leadership is the Premier’s digital ethos: ‘With Peter at the helm, Premier gained a reputation for being forward-thinking, adopting new technology, pioneering video-on-demand and becoming one of the first radio stations in the UK to stream its content online in the late 1990s. Through its annual Digital Media Conferences, Premier encouraged churches across the UK to take advantage of all the digital world had to offer.’ As part of the analogue world, Premier remains a leader in print and electronic media with a range of glossy magazines. Christianity and Youthwork magazines became part of the Premier stable in 1997. Premier then created the Voice of Hope daily devotional magazine and, in 2019, purchased the long-running Christian women’s magazine Woman Alive.’

As a model of a Christian entrepreneur, Peter lives on with the hope of eternal life. In a message he shared with members of the Premier staff not long before he died, Peter wrote, “By the time you read this, I will be with Jesus … Whilst this is not the outcome we hoped for, I can only tell you that in this last year, God has been closer to me than at any time in my life, and I know with certainty that I am safe in His hands.” An entrepreneur who can run the church and give vision to the old church must have assurance of his or her salvation in Jesus Christ.

In prayer, let us remember Peter’s wife, Karen, and their two sons, Jonathan and Matthew.

[1] Gene, A. Getz, Sharpening the Focus of the Church(Chicago: Moody Press, 1974), pp. 177-189

[2] Peter, Elvy, Buying Time: The Foundations of the Electronic Church (Great Wakering: McCrimmon, 1986), pp. 18-31, 35

[3] Edwin, Robertson, Air your faith: The growing opportunities for Christians in Radio(Tunbridge Wells: Jay, 1991), pp. 7, 16