When religious programming first began it was aimed, almost exclusively, at a strictly Christian audience. However, over the years this has changed in that more programmes are being aimed at the vaguely religious, non-religious as well as religious people of all faiths. This means that the programmes appeal to a wider audience including religious people from all religions who cannot attend church for whatever reason, people who are undecided about whether or not there is a God and the non-religious.
In the future broadcasters aim to devote more airtime to programmes for the ethnic minorities. However, this could cause problems for the BBC who need to attract 20 percent of a viewing audience at any given time because ethnic minorities only form 5 percent of the British population. Making the programmes interesting for non-religious people as well could solve this. BBC religion wants to help people to understand where we have come from, why we are here and how we should live.
They want to explore how different people understand this to help others find answers. Channel 4’s aim for religious broadcasts is to give them more peak time slots and one-off programmes whilst making them less religious and instead focusing more on personal beliefs which affect people everyday. The first type of religious programme is Worship programmes like Songs of Praise, Sunday Worship and My Favourite Hymns. I am going to detail Songs of Praise. Songs of Praise is about how God has helped people through different situations that they have had to cope with.
The episode watched dealt with how someone with minimal qualifications now runs a multi-billion pound car enterprise, how a cancer sufferer who could not have her tumour removed recovered through the power of prayer and now God has gifted her with her adoptive son Nathan. It also showed someone who has set up a holiday business for disabled people was inspired by God to do it. All of these issues were shown and dealt with, with subtlety and sensitivity so viewers would not be upset or offended by someone else’s views and were able to make their own judgements on how God could help them.
They did this by presenting each issue with both facts and opinions about Gods hand in the issue. At no point did anyone dictate what religion you should become. Songs of Praise is aimed towards people who have already confirmed their faith in God and those who are vaguely religious. The programme is becoming more modern to try and entice the younger generations to watch by singing a mixture of modern and traditional hymns, some of which are backed by a band rather than an organ. Other people who watch include people who are unable to attend church for any reason.
Songs of Praise is a very successful religious broadcast. This is shown through its audience of seven million people, position on prime time Sunday television and by the fact that it has been show for forty years. Another type of religious programme is a magazine programme. Examples of this include The Heaven and Earth Show, and First Light. The Heaven and Earth Show focuses on a variety of religions and trying to establish links between them by visiting religious sites which are significant to more than one religion.
It presents a wide variety of different viewpoints on faith and it gives viewers the opportunity to submit their views through telephone discussions or e-mailing and texting. They look at religious and moral issue in the media and ask specialists for their views on these issues. Sometimes, the specialists have religious views but not always. The discussions between people with opposing views can get quite argumentative and heated but it is usually kept light-hearted and not too serious. They also have celebrities being interviewed about their families and personal beliefs.
The programme watched dealt with all of the issues presented light-heartedly. Through the Heaven and Earth Show was the best way to deal with the issues because it meant that a variety of religions can view it, including agnostic people, and not be offended. The Heaven and Earth Show is shown on Sunday Mornings for an hour at 10:00 or 10:30. This shows that its target audience is people from any age group from any religion. However, it makes it harder for strictly religious church attendees to view the programme because this is when the majority of church services take place.
It has been show on television for around six years, which proves that it is successful. A third type of religious broadcast is documentary programming. This incorporates programmes such as Everyman, Witness and The RE Collection. Everyman deals with religious, sensitive and moral issues including things like abortion, war and euthanasia. In this case they looked into Mediums, contacting the dead and life after death. It gave both religious and scientific viewpoints so the audience could form an unbiased opinion. Also, the religious views shown are not usually biased to one religion but rather a variety.
Everyman dealt with the topics that it presented with sensitivity so as not to upset or offend anyone. The issue of mediums was best shown in a documentary rather than a worship programme or a comedy because it meant that we could witness someone’s experience from the point of loosing someone close to them up until their point of ‘contact’. Also, it meant that viewpoints were dealt with separately so arguments did not occur. Overall, it let the audience understand the people’s stories more fully so they could reach their own conclusions.
If a magazine programme had looked into this issue, a loss of sensitivity might have transpired. Everyman is intended for an adult audience of any religion. Due to the issues it covers it is unsuitable for children. This is reflected in the times at which it is shown, 10:30-11:30 or 11:00-12:00 at night. It is a successful programme and this can be seen through the fact that it has been on the BBC for many years. The final type of religious programme is comedy broadcasts. This covers programmes such as The Vicar of Dibley, Father Ted and The Kumars at Number 42.
The Vicar of Dibley deals with the once controversial idea of female priests, sexism and people’s stereotypical views of religious believers. The stereotypes were shown as not being open minded to the idea of the female priest but let her preach that Sunday where they realised that they were wrong about her. It shows religious believers as being traditional, old and not normal, whilst also being sexist towards Geraldine, the new priest, and how non-believers have stereotypical views about religious believers.
Using a comedy to deal with this subject was a good choice because people are more likely to watch a comedy and then remember its content than a documentary. When The Vicar of Dibley was filmed, female priests were a new idea which was the cause of much controversy within the church so showing it in a comedy gave people the advantages and disadvantages in a light-hearted manner so they can create their own opinion on the matter. It is aimed at teenagers to the middle-aged from all beliefs as well as non-believers and the partially religious; it will not offend anyone.
It is a successful; programme. This is shown through the fact that it has been on primetime viewing, at around 8:30-9:30 for eleven years and specials are filmed for times like Christmas and it is released on DVD and video. Through these programmes, issues can be presented in a variety of different ways to suit different audiences. However, they all allow for individual opinions to be formed. Some of them are aimed at one religion but others are designed for a wide variety of viewer.