Beginning on Sunday —a new era in small-screen religion?
t S one who has said some unpleasant things about religious television I am delighted this week to commend a remarkable example of enterprise on the part of ABC, one of the commercial companies that contributes to our Sunday viewing.
In an effort to find out what ' people in Britain think about religion, the company asked a leading public opinion research organisation to conduct a poll in various parts of the country. The objects were not only to get a cross-section of comment, but also to inestigate reactions to religious ogrammes.
On Sunday-2-which is, incidentally, the tenth anniversary of Independent Television—the findings will he discussed in a special 50minute programme called Religion in Britain (ITV, 6.35). Cardinal Heenan, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Ramsey, and the Moderator of the Free Church Federal Council, Rev. Peter McCall will take part.
The pro'gramme itself should make fascinating viewing. But what is more important— in the long-term view— is the fact that the findings of the survey will he noted by all of those programme officials concerned with the production of religious broadcasting.
The survey may therefore not only make next Sunday's "religious hour" one to be remembered; it might well have its effect on future programmes whose form may be changed on the basis of the findings made in the survey.
HAVING SAID nice words about ABC I must now say that their cohtribution last week—the discussion between Rev. Lord Soper, the Methodist. and Mr. Amphlett Micklewright of the Secular Society was away above my head. I had switched over to this channel because I had imagined this would be one of those hard-hitting exchanges in which two down-to-earth gentlemen would discuss the Christian faith in down-toearth terms.
I had probably been influenced—at least so far as Lord Soper was concerned —by having seen him on other occasions dealing with unbelievers in the sort of crowd that gathered around his stand when he regularly spoke on Sunday afternoon in Hyde Park. But this was an entirely different sort of exercise.
The whole tone of the discussion was set at too high a level with the result that you had two experts debating in the sort of "in" language which would be acceptable, perhaps, to a group of theological students, but certainly not to people sitting down in their own homes with a tea cup in one hand and a slice of toast in the other.
I am sure that many of them breathed a sigh of relief when the programme was faded out in mid-sentence to give way to the Salvation Army's Joy Strings, another ABC production. I will readily accept that quite a few people might have been mildly offended by the fact that this Army pop group should seek to put over a religious message through songs rendered in the modern style —in other words, with a "beat".
For my own part. I find it impossible to criticise them. If their performance had been on the level of a gimmick it would have been in had taste. But these young people so obviously meant every word that they sang.
Better by far that they should pass on the happiness they had found in loving God than that they should endlessly bemoan their lack of sat-is-facz,shun.
I HAVE just received from the promoters of the CleanUp TV campaign a copy of a letter sent to the chairman of the BBC. in it they criticise his unwillingness to meet with a deputation from the organisation to discuss their cornplaints. I can certainly see no reason why Lord Normanbrook should not meet them.
I am sure that the majority of those who have signed the petition calling for better standards on TV are wellmeaning, intelligent people. I support, as I think most people would do, their feelings that certain programmes are in had taste and that there is a tendency towards too much violence and sex in a lot that comes from the BBC (and other channels as well).
But I would find one fault with their letter. In it they list various ways in which the BBC could contribute to "honesty, sound family life, cleanliness of heart and mind, courage and initiative. character and responsibility".
Commendable things, all of them. But nowhere is there mention of the fact that television exists also as a medium for entertainment. Nowhere do they mention the immeasurable satisfaction and enjoyment that can come from music of all sorts) and the lift that laughter can give.
By omitting to mentiOn these things, it is possible that Lord Normanbrook may have misjudged their intentions. It is as necessary for them to see the need for balanced television as it is for Lord Normanbrook to do so.
ANGLIA TELEVISION certainty proved in their Council curtain-raiser play on Monday night that some of the best work in television is being done outside London.
The Successor was brilliantly conceived, intelligently directed and no one who saw it will easily forget Rupert Davies' interpretation of the Cardinal who became Pope.
Some may complain at the play's over-simplification of the process by which a Pope is elected; but this was a play and would pretend to be nothing more than a dramatised version of the events surrounding such an election. This was first-class television.
It came—and I say this not because it happened to have a religious theme — after weeks during which one came to the point of despair About the pausity of good dramatic material. Night after night one has had to watch the same old plots, dressed up in different clothes, but still very much the same old plots.
I did not manage to see a credit line giving the writer's name but can only hope that he will be encouraged to produce more of a similar quality and originality.