Religious television treads an unenviably precarious path. It must spread its favours with scrupulous fairness among the major religious denominations. It is allowed convictions but not prejudices and must not offend, bore, misinform or evangelise.
Programmes based on the stolid formula of hymns in pleasant places are often sneered at and accused of teetering on the edge of coy piety — yet this type of production can be almost embarrassingly The conte nt iof the creelsigsifoljul output should be a matter of deep concern for all who care about their faith. The effect of television must not be underestimated. It has immediate access into the majority of households in Britain and commands a far wider audience than any preacher is acher int hie therefore very pulpit.
encouraging that the BBC's head of religious broadcasting has stated that his department is reconsidering how it can best serve the religious needs of the community. He hopes that this reassessment will be assisted by a thorough debate on how to improve televised worship.
Although church attendance in Britain is a minority pursuit it is worth remembering that televised worship is not aimed specifically at that strange elite. It is most likely to be appreciated by those who are cut off from the local parishes through sickness, shyness or choice. But this in turn points to a failure with the local Christian community to seek out the isolated and bring the life of the perish to them. Television spectatorshipwillalwayscomea poor second to direct participation.
Too often in the past the God-slot has been a bastion of mediocrity. Filmed communal acts of worship and studio services are not the only answers. If we want to respond to the religious needs and curiousity of the nonchurch-goer we should consider providing some simple non-denominational adult education about what Jesus said and did — and then expand the schema to provide information about teachers from the other faiths which now belong here.
The richness of religious life in this country has yet to be tapped by television.