Preaching the Gospel Via the Mass Media -- By: W. Glyn Evans

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 126:502 (Apr 1969)
Article: Preaching the Gospel Via the Mass Media
Author: W. Glyn Evans


Preaching the Gospel Via the Mass Media

W. Glyn Evans

[W. Glyn Evans, Assistant Professor of Practical Theology, John Pickey, Jr. Memorial Graduate, School of Theology, Wheaton College, Wheaton Illinois.]

When radio broadcasting became commercial in the 1920’s, religious leaders were quick to realize its potential. The first broadcast of a church service was held in 1921. So avidly did the religious world seek the evangelistic and teaching opportunities of radio, one authority could say: “Religion is the subject of more broadcasts than any other topic.”1 In fact, a number of AM and FM stations are owned by religious groups for the exclusive purpose of religious broadcasting. In 1962, fifty radio stations were owned by religious groups as compared to two television stations.2

This latter fact indicates that religious leaders have not been as interested in developing the religious possibilities of television as they did radio. The reasons are obvious. Television demands a vastly greater outlay of talent, programming, time, and money. Further, while religious radio carried sizable listening audiences, religious television does not. While both the Gary Steiner report and the New Haven report indicate that not enough religious television is being offered the people, both also agree that the size of the religious audience is small compared to other audiences. More of this later.

Newton M. Minow’s reference to television as a “vast wasteland” (1961) has led to a greater emphasis on religious television by the networks. But the networks are reluctant to give full rein to their religious offerings because of: (1) the possibility of violating the FCC restrictions on broadcasting

and (2) the lucrative prime time spots which would be beyond the purse of the religious program sponsor.

The major networks have adopted the following attitudes toward religious television. NBC provides sustaining time for organizations representing the major faiths. CBS generally prepares its own material in close co-operation with the major faiths. Also, it co-operates with the National Radio Broadcasters, a group which includes many conservatives which do not belong to the National Council of Churches. This makes for wider Protestant representation. ABC sells time to religious users under certain circumstances.

Local television stations have adopted one of the following policies with respect to religious broadcasting: (1) furnish free time to local church groups; (2) sell time to established denominations; (3) offer a special rate to establi...

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