WHO WATCHES TV RELIGION?
WHAT kind of people watch religious programmes on television? How can contact be made with them in an age when people are basically insecure but have lost touch with Christian words and symbols?
What can be done to produce a more effective religious response from viewers?
These were the main topics discussed by religious advisers, producers and other executives from ABC-TV and ATV at a four-day meeting at William Temple college, Rugby, last week.
Fr. John Bebb, Catholic religious adviser to ATV, who attended the conference, writes: Our thinking was enormously helped by the presence of such people as Richard Hoggart, Malcolm Muggeridge, Dr. Dillistone, the Dean of Liverpool, and John Grierson, whose stimulating talks provoked discussion in depth, which should be of the greatest value in future productions.
The Look-Listen groups organised from the Catholic Radio and Television centre at Hatch End, together with similar groups formed by the Church of England, provided a mass of information covering all the religious transmissions for the month of February.
Although the great god TAM gives us facts about the number of viewers, which we are told may be anything up to eight million on a Sunday evening, they do not give us a picture of audience reaction, so that the reports from the LookListen groups provided signposts down an uncharted road.
"Journey of a Lifetime," " Sunday Break," and "About Religion," were all examined dispassionately, except when a Catholic was appearing, when comment tended to become unusually fulsome, but the overall picture gave producers and advisers furiously to think. It was interesting to discover the similarity of view of both Catholic find non-Catholic, so that all in all, the Look-Listen groups would seem to have " arrived ".
It looks as though this kind of consultation, which was the first of its kind, will become a commonplace of the future. We are at last coming to realise that we are
as yet the stone age of television, and that progress can be achieved only if we all learn from each other and from the audience on the other side of the screen.
Catholics often think that we are failing in our job if we are not constantly proclaiming Catholic truth like a preacher But the sad fact has to be faced. that this does not communicate with the average Briton, who is unable to see the relevance of religion to life, and who does not understand the most simple Christiar vocabulary.
We have to meet the viewer where he is. and for there slowly and painfully to rebuild. It remains true, however, that television has many limitations, and that conversion is still the task of the individual. We in television have a unique weapon to break down prejudice and ignorance if only we can learn how to use it, but this will never do more than pave the way to an eventual return to the faith.