TO BE SUCCESSFUL, religious broad casting must be as professional as the rest, says the Rev. Penry Jones, who has been head of the B.B.C.'s religious broadcasting for the past 21 years. "It is no good having admirable theology dressed up in programmes of inadequate standard."
He divides religious programmes into two main categories. In the first he places programmes intended primarily for people who are already churchgoers or committed Christians. This would cover broadcast services of worship, particularly on radio, talks and special series for Lent and Advent.
In the second category are programmes which are really addressed to the general listener or viewer like those shown on B.B.C.-1 on Sunday evenings. They are designed to attract everyone— churchgoers, atheists or those who are indifferent.
Radio's Ten to Eight is an important programme in this category—"an interesting time, when the audience is building up for the eight o'clock news." TV's QuestiOn Why on Sunday evening is an instance of a very successful programme in this category.
Mr. Jones said there had recently been a change of emphasis. For many years TV's Meeting Point had tackled subjects which were of interest to people "because they were human beings not because they belonged to the Church or were against the Church."
The basic intention is still the same, although the general title has been dropped and there is now a variety of programmes, including documentary films. "Most of these we make ourselves, but one came from the Catholic Radio and TV Centre at Donnybrook, Dublin."
There are now programmes like Malcolm Muggeridge's Question Why and All Things Considered, and short runs of programmes either on the religious implication of topical issues or on theology, like the discussion programme Reason to Believe. Among documentaries of a very high standard there was Padre Pio, which won the International Christian TV award.
The documentary on the Vatican which is to be screened on February 10 has been made by the same team, which includes producer Mischa Scorer and Patrick O'Donovan.
Other outstanding documentaries have been Malcolm Muggeridge's on Mother Teresa and his three programmes on the Life of Christ which were made in the Holy Land. These are to be repeated in colour on B.B.C.-1 at Easter.
Mr. Jones welcomes the opening of the £180,000 Catholic Radio and TV Centre at Hatch End, Middlesex.
"Hatch End will help priests and lay people to become better broadcasters. People who are going to work in places like Africa and Asia will be properly trained in broadcasting techniques, In terms of the mission of the Church in the world this is crucial."
In radio the major change, again, has been in the Sunday evening programmes. "We are introducing, in Subject for Sunday, a number of themes: sometimes documentary, about people facing up to problems of various kinds, sometimes lively discussions, occasionally a single person being interviewed, "The best interview was Roy Trevivian with the Catholic woman who knew that she was about to die, I'll Go on Sweeping the Corridor."
Prominent politicians, like the Prime Minister, Edward Heath and Enoch Powell, have been interviewed about their religious motivations. "Our interview with Gerald Brooke on his return from prison showed, for the first time, that he was a deeply religious man who did what he did for Christian reasons."
The other big change over recent years has been the increased use of lay people in religious broadcasting. "We have more lay producers in the department than ever before. In the Holy Week series last year the talks were given by lay people like Andrew Cruickshank, Bronwen Pugh, Tom Driberg, Quintin Hogg." This experiment was so successful that it is to be repeated this Easter. Future plans include the departure of Malcolm Muggeridge in April to the Mediterranean, where he is to make three more documentaries in colour, this time on St. Paul. Later in the year there will be an important programme on St. Augustine shown on B.B.C.-2, In association with the Children's Department In the Beginning is to be broadcast on B.B.C.-1 on Sundays at 6.15 p.m. The stories from the Old Testament, beautifully illustrated in colour, will last for ten minutes each and there will be a series of eleven.
"It is not enough to instruct. I hope that our programmes will inspire people to face life with a certain degree of nobility, courage and compassion,"