Communicating Our Faith on Television
“GOOD NEWS TIME”
Superstar TV religion has peaked. Charismatic celebrities have crowded each other off the spectrum. Talented televangelists are now all talking to largely the same dwindling five percent of the American audience. Televised worship has been found to be about as nourishing as a TV dinner. The present trend is away from show biz and back to church, a return from electronic pulpit to real life small group spiritual growth communities.
Coincidentally, public service television is also dying. The free air time legally set aside for community affairs and religious programming is no longer required by a deregulated, commercially oriented industry. Over 90 percent of all religion on TV is already “paid religion” (i.e., broadcast on purchased airtime). And the lovely little old ladies whose weekly contributions buy that time are getting older and their pension checks are getting smaller.
If personality-cult and public-service religion are disappearing from the TV screen and are already largely relegated to the Sunday morning ghetto in any case, where do we Christians go to tell our story, the good news of salvation? The expression “good news” may give us a clue.
For some time now television’s true prime time has been the evening news. It is relatively inexpensive to produce, animates the day’s radio and newspaper coverage, and offers a tired but curious America a relatively live and lively source of entertainment under the rubric of serious news reportage. With half-hour “news updates” in the early morning and at noon, with a nightcap recap at 11 p.m. and again at sign-off (didn’t that used to be the “benediction”?), local television is developing an ever-increasing appetite for local news.
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