It began ten years ago when the Anglican, United and Roman Catholic broadcasting staffs found that working together their relations with other broadcasters were stronger and that they could get much more mileage out of their joint resources. The three churches, employing professional broadcasters on their communications staffs, and encouraging them in their co-operative efforts, have within the last month arrived at a unique situation in religious broadcasting.
The clinching of the new contract with the CBC coincided with the World Council of Churches' five-year study on "THE FUTURE OF MAN AND SOCIETY IN A SCIENCE-BASED TECHNOLOGICAL SOCIETY." This study will involve "experts" and "laity" in all aspects of the life of twentieth century man. The study will involve groups of people throughout the world with expertise in many disciplines working together in studies, conferences and seminars on our future as they see it from the perspective of their own particular field. The groups will include theologians, ecologists, physicists, psychologists, economists, political scientists, etc.
The "laity" are involved too because it is the hope of the World Council of Churches that congregations and smaller church groups will take part in the same study, making use of material which the Council will distribute as it becomes available. It will be in the form of all modern media - tapes, films, radio and television programs, printed material, etc, and will include study guides and suggested action.
The project is a vital one for the world as it fights for its survival in the second half of the twentieth century and an exciting one for the churches of the world. If clergy and congregations can perceive the import of this study for their lives and those of future generations, and are prepared to become a part of it, there should be less cries (and possibly none) of "irrelevant" directed at the Church.
One result of the study has particular significance for the Anglican, United and Roman Catholic Churches in Canada. The broadcasting staffs of these churches have been working together producing for radio and television stations and networks, and training church broadcasters for the past ten years. The radio Unit is known as "INTERCHURCH BROADCASTING" and the Television unit is called "RELIGIOUS TELEVISION ASSOCIATES" (RTA).
This small group of people with a meagre budget have been working quietly across the country producing programs on behalf of their three churches and negotiating time and facilities with the broadcasters.
There have been many problems to be overcome - interpreting the churches' concerns to the networks, and interpreting the importance of broadcasting to the churches. Over the years they have moved from simple "talk" programs in poor broadcast time to co-production with stations and film nominations and awards.
Two years ago Religious Television Associates withdrew from their weekly production "SPECTRUM" in order to release staff to explore other and better ways of serving the church through the media and of servicing and influencing the electronic media. The result has meant a reduction in the number of productions, but an increase in professional standing. There is now no question of our appearing on anything but prime time in the two major networks. Our experience of these two years has convinced us that the only effective way for the churches to influence the media is to continue to produce programs. Only by this means are we accepted as professional producers and respected colleagues, and therefore "heard."
There is a direct connection with this broadcasting experience and the World Council study of "THE FUTURE OF MAN AND SOCIETY IN A SCIENCE-BASED TECHNOLOGICAL SOCIETY," because the Council has chosen the CBC to produce all the major television, radio and film material for the world-wide study. The exciting breakthrough for the Anglican, United and Roman Catholic Churches is that the CBC has chosen RTA to co-produce material with them.
The result is an entirely new Church/Broadcasters relationship in the form of a co-production contract which was signed earlier this month. The contract is not new only for the Churches but for the CBC also as it involved many changes in their usual contractual arrangements. The negotiations were not without problems for both sides but they reached successful conclusion with the patient guiding hand of Reverend Des McCalmont who is RTA's Executive Producer and the vision and concern of Mr. Leo Rampen, Executive Producer of "MAN ALIVE." What the contract amounts to is that Religious Television Associates will produce initially three half-hour films for showing first on "MAN ALIVE" and then available to the churches for their part in the study. The cost will be shared by the CBC, both will contribute some staff time but RTA will direct, the films will be jointly owned by the CBC and RTA, and any profits accruing from world-wide distribution will be shared. All filmed material outside of the finished film will belong to RTA. The first film will be seen on Thanksgiving Day on "MAN ALIVE" - October 12.
In the history of religious broadcasting the situation is an entirely new one. In ecumenical co-operation in broadcasting and in original and creative relationships with the broadcasters, Canada is ahead of the world; in the same field the Anglican, United and Roman Catholic broadcasting units are ahead of the rest of the Canadian religious community.