Church cool on broadcast 'dream'
BY ANDREW M BROWN
A MOTHER ANGELICA-STYLE Catholic television channel may be coming to Britain in the New Year, following the decision by the Independent Television Commission to license 24-hour religious television programming.
Rory Alec, chief executive of the Christian Channel, which owns the franchise for the six new stations, told the Catholic Herald this week that he had been in discussions with two Catholic broadcasting groups, one based in the US, the other in Europe.
"A 24-hour Catholic TV channel is a very realistic possibility," he said. Mr Alec, an evangelical who describes his work as "a mission from God" and his programmes as "a dream come true for a Christian home", said he was also keen to talk to members of the Charismatic Renewal Movement.
"There was a feeling that one of the six channels should be Catholic," said Mr Alec. "As much as God loves Anglicans, Methodists, Pente costals, God loves Catholics. They have a real understanding of the grace of God and his tenderness."
But Fr John Wijngaard, director of Housetop Television, said he thought American-influenced religious television would be unwelcome in Europe. "Most of it is Biblethumping fundamentalism of the worst kind," he said. "It's horrid. Mother Angelica so far has dominated Catholic television.
"That kind of TV would be undesirable here because it represents a narrow conservative viewpoint. Some of Mother Angelica is somewhat `televangelist' in style, which is distasteful to European viewers."
Fr Wijngaard helped to set up the unsuccessful Ark 2 ecumenical television project, which had the goodwill of the bishops, but which finally went into liquidation in May this year.
Rory Alec said the Christian Channel planned to cover the whole spectrum of religious enthusiasm, from "happyclappy", which he hopes will be represented by such churches as the Toronto Airport Church and Holy Trinity Brompton, to the traditionalist style made enormously popular in the U.S. by Mother Angelica. "Christian Channel wants to place itself in the middle. Catholics will be able to say, 'I've seen the Catholic channel, now let's see what's on the revival channel'," said Mr Alec.
However, Bishop Crispian Hollis, the chairman of the Bishops' Communications Committee, has so far given a lukewarm response to the idea of exclusively Christian cable or satellite broadcasting.
In May 1996, the bishop published guidelines in which he said: "The setting up of a Christian channel, or any other religious channel which concentrates exclusively on the provision of religious programming, runs the risk of undermining access to the airwaves as a matter of public policy. lithe output of the channel is 'overtly Christian and evangelistic', what effect is this programming policy likely to have on wider inter-faith relationships?"