RELIGIOUS BROADCASTING

Canada’s first multifaith religious television network began broadcasting in September to generally positive reaction from viewers and the media.

“Right from the beginning, we’ve had to fight negative stereotypes about religious broadcasting,” says Vision TV president Ron Kearst, a veteran Canadian broadcaster. “But once people found out we weren’t going to be wall-to-wall American TV evangelists, there’s been a terrific response.”

Vision TV, not affiliated with VISN, the Vision Interfaith Satellite Network in the United States that also debuted in September (CT, Nov. 4, 1988), is entering a highly competitive media marketplace. Viewers in Toronto, for example, can choose from among 36 different channels.

However, until now only the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has had the resources to buy nationwide prime-time programming on commercial stations. Other religious broadcasters have generally been relegated to the “religious ghetto” of weekday and Sunday mornings. With Vision TV, faith groups now have low-cost access to four million households (via satellite) during the prime-time evening hours. The nonprofit network’s revenue comes from selling air time and a limited number of commercials. Fund raising is limited to 90 seconds per half-hour.

Vision, previously known as the Canadian Interfaith Network, has been trying to get on the air for over five years. But Canada’s broadcasting regulatory body had refused to grant broadcasting licenses to any religious organization that would represent only one viewpoint.

Vision now meets that requirement, with programming generated by groups ranging from minority non-Christian traditions such as Islam, Hinduism, and Baha’i, to the largest mainline Protestant denomination, ...

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