THE Commission with the most glamorous task and the least appealing name must surely be the Mass Media Commission of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. This is the body that advises the Catholic Church on television, cinema, radio and press.
Like many of the other Commissions this one is at
present largely inactive, awaiting the outcome of the special report on the Commissions which the bishops, headed by Cardinal Heenan. have undertaken. understand that this report is now likely to be issued in the middle of November.
The Mass Media Commission has among its members some of the bestknown names in the country. For a start there is the secretary, Fr. Agnellus Andrew, doyen of Catholic broadcasting since the 1940s.
He rubs shoulders with Charles Curran, the present Director-General of the B.B.C. and the journalist Patrick O'Donovan. There are about 50 members of the Mass Media Commission, making it one of the largest.
Like the other Commissions it was founded in 1965 and has completed five years of work. The chairman is Bishop Holland of Salford.
It is split into three subCommissions, one for press, one for cinema and the third for radio and television.
The Press sub-Commission, which draws its members from the Catholic and daily newspapers and a number of public relations men, was responsible for setting up the Catholic Information Office which is now directed by David Miles Board.
This was an achievement of the first order since there is now a direct line of communication with Fleet Street and the provincial newspapers which never existed before. It is probably true to say that the Press sub-Commission at present 'tacks direction. Having set up the press office its members arc wondering what the next step is to be something they are unlikely to discover until the bishops report on the Commissions in N ovember.
The Cinema sub-Commission is the one that has not got off the ground. Few Catholics are professionally interested in the cinema and as a result the Scottish Film Office has been dealing with matters concerning the cinema in England.
The real star of the Mass Media Commission is the subCommission for Radio and Television. Among its members are all the priests at present employed on the B.B.C. staff or as advisers to I.T.V.: two top-level executives (Charles Curran and Anthony Jelly, Director of Tyne Tees); two working producers; four people
from the area of study and research, and two represen tatives from the lay apostolate.
The Radio and Television sub-Commission's work is centred on St. Gabriel's at Hatch End. Middlesex. This is the headquarters of the Catholic Radio and Television Centre, benevolently directed by Fr, Agnellus.
The centre, which cost £5,500 eo buy 15 years ago and is now valued at £500,000, is world famous. While I was with Fr. Agnellus the other afternoon. he received calls
from Denmark. f r o rn Germany, from a top executive of the B.B.C. and from a senior U.S. Army chaplain—all wanting advice on the problems of religious television, The centre is very much Fr. Agnellus's baby. For three years he travelled the country, spending three or four nights a week in the train, raising money for the building of the centre.
Completed last year, it has the most modern equipment and a completely professional staff under Grace Wyndham Goldie, formerly chief producer of the Current Affairs Department of the B.B.C.
The work of the Commission. twee particularly at Hatch End. is seen by Fr. Agnellus as an attempt to "Clothe the Word with Flesh p that it walks easily in the streets of 1971" — a not untypical phrase of his.
As Fr. Agnellus says: "The Church is communication the Word of God living. The Eucluirist is communication, It's hard work teaching people this."
He says the work of himself and his colleagues is a direct extension of that started by the Apostle John. Fr. Agnellus maintains that St. John's Gospel is written throughout in communications language. "In the beginning the word was made flesh" . . . "that's what this game is all about." says Fr. Agnellus.