One of the bright lights on an often-bleak Canadian media landscape has died early, at the age of 37.
Jerry Jonkheer passed away May 10 after a six-month battle with a blood disorder. A member of the Willowdale Christian Reformed Church in Toronto, Jonkheer served as the creator, producer and host of The Eh JJ Show, a Christian entertainment and variety program that was seen nationally on the Vision TV network, as well as locally on the Miracle Channel in Lethbridge, Alta.
The program regularly attracted an average of 50,000 to 60,000 viewers.
Jonkheer was a supporter of the pro-life cause, attending pro-life activist meetings in Toronto and often featuring pro-life issues on his program.
One episode contained interviews with 16 pro-lifers arrested for peaceful civil-disobedience, while another spotlighted the song Fight for the Unborn, a “We Are the World” type of effort by singers and musicians in support of the pro-life cause.
A third program featured an interview with a person who had been born prematurely, to illustrate how preborn babies are still viable at gestational ages at which some abortions take place.
Jonkheer had Interim associate editor Tony Gosgnach appear on two of his programs.
Jonkheer told The Interim last year that he had plans to produce more pro-life-oriented episodes.
Pro-life issues also received an airing on Christian Activist Corner, a segment at the end of the program that informed Christians of current issues and how they could take action on them.
The Eh JJ Show first took to the airwaves in 1989 as a middle-of-the-night, half-hour special on a Peterborough, Ont. television station. Eventually, in subsequent airings, it moved to progressively better timeslots, ending up in a weekday morning position.
The show then made its way to the Vision network, where it aired Saturdays at 6 p.m., before it was shifted to the Thursday morning period.
Jonkheer said his motivation for starting the program laid in his desire to provide a positive and moral alternative to the trashy, violent and sex-laden fare often served up by television outlets.
“People are always complaining about how bad TV is,” he said. “So instead of complaining, we decided to do something about it – change TV one half-hour at a time.”