Does the Media Reflect Your Christian Experience?

A few weeks ago, I attended a panel debate on the place of God in government. Faith and media leaders and influencers, including a noble Lord, also argued whether our Parliamentary MPs should possess a good level of religious knowledge to inform their decision making.  

There is no doubt such a conversation is both fascinating and necessary. Yet, I confess the panel and audience’s comments did not seem to reflect my own Christian experience and culture. Since then, I have been asking why this might be so.

Tim Keller says in his book, ‘The Reason for God’, there is a decline in ‘inherited’ religion; faith passed on from parents to their children. He goes onto say that mainstream churches have seen a sharp fall in numbers attending church. This same decline was also raised during the panel debate. But, Keller went onto to stress that there has been significant growth in ‘chosen’ faith, when young people and adults make a conscious decision to follow Jesus Christ.   

Examples of this growth are found in the developing world. Korea has gone from 1 per cent to 40 per cent Christian in one hundred years, and experts believe the same will happen in China which would change the course of human history. This growth is not the wafer thin, more secularised versions of Christianity predicted by sociologists. Rather, it is a robust supernatural faith with belief in miracles, Biblical authority and personal conversion. My church community, and many church communities across the UK, would certainly relate to this living faith, where lives are being freed from addictions; relationships reconciled; genuine hope restored where, perhaps, none existed before. Yet, these good news stories are rarely reported in the media.

So, to return to the panel discussion, should we expect our MPs to possess a religious knowledge that informs their thinking? Should God play any part in Government? Influential US thinkers, John Rawls and Robert Audi suggest that we may not argue for a moral position unless it has a secular, non-religious grounding. In short, religious views should be excluded from public discourse. However, Stephen L Carter responds that it is impossible to leave religious views behind when we do any kind of moral reasoning.

To argue that religious beliefs and reasoning should be left at the door of the House of Parliament is, to my mind, assuming a highly moralistic position. A religious faith may be personal, but is certainly not private when it inspires and motivates our very actions and words. When members of my church community go to their place of work on Monday morning, do they leave their faith at home? Do they leave their moral conscience at the school gate or the hospital car park?

Christian faith is not a temporary thing that helped us adapt to our environment. Rather it is a permanent and central aspect of the human condition. At the MediaNet, we long to see more Christians called to serve God in the media; to be salt and light; to be influential; to share true, authentic stories of transformed lives.

Let me ask you two simple questions. Is your Christian environment and culture properly reflected in the media? If not, how can we change the media agenda? I would love to hear your thoughts and your story.

Written by Steve Cox, Chair of the Church and Media Network. Follow Steve on Twitter at @coxee

  • wilsonyorks

    Dear Steve

    When I started an active broadcasting role at a commercial radio station, that I had helped found, I produced and presented a regular Sunday morning programme with CCM and gospel music that fitted the station’s overall sound. Back in those days the only permanent Christian radio station was Premier Christian Radio on AM/MW in London and there was no contemporary sounding Christian music on the radio in my part of Yorkshire.

    It would not be until the passing of the 2003 Communications Act that the ability for Christian radio stations to have the legal right to broadcast on DAB allowed Premier and UCB to start broadcasting nationally as their formats ‘increased listener choice’ and were thus safeguarded under the law. Hence today we have one Christian station, UCB 1, needing to be on the Digital 1 DAB multiplex (90% UK coverage) while three others are on the newer SDL National DAB multiplex (75% UK coverage).

    One of the proposals in the recently published DCMS consultation titled “Commercial Radio Deregulation” asks the question, “We [DCMS] would welcome views on removing Ofcom’s powers to oversee changes to station line ups on national and local multiplexes and whether these changes have any impacts on competition.”

    Rather than remove the safeguards on formats on the national DAB multiplexes I believe that there still are some elements of broadcasting regulation that might need tweaking in any future legislation in order that the ‘power’ of large commercial radio groups does not suffocate competition and listener choice, especially for national radio broadcasting, and that the variety of local radio services is not only retained but extended.

    This domination by large radio groups can happen with some broadcasters out-bidding specialist or local broadcasters for space on DAB multiplexes or by a large radio operator broadcasting a very similar format on both local and national DAB multiplexes. A current example found in East Yorkshire, as well as other parts of the country, is where Smooth UK is broadcast on the local Humberside DAB multiplex and Smooth Extra is on the national Digital 1 DAB multiplex with an almost identical sound, apart from the Smooth UK and Smooth Extra ID jingles and a different set of commercials, and with what appears to be exactly the same playlist in exactly the same rotation. A similar occurrence happens with Capital Yorkshire on local DAB, as well as FM, and Capital UK on Digital 1. In the past listener choice was extended by radio stations being told by the regulator and Minister to split their FM and AM/MW transmissions into two separate services or lose one of the frequencies.

    I therefore suggest that the following ways would make sure that the listener experience is enhanced in a digital age by giving Ofcom new statutory duties in future legislation to:

    1. Intervene to make sure that all DAB/DAB+ National and Local Radio Multiplex Service Licence holders give equitable access to their multiplex to Digital Sound Programme Service licensees so that a wide variety of programme types are carried on the respective multiplexes.

    2. See that the programmes that are broadcast on a national DAB multiplex must be entirely different in content/playlist to those that are broadcast over local DAB multiplexes. There should be no simulcasting allowed on the same waveband – DAB/DAB+ or FM or AM/MW – apart from 4 hours per 24-hour day mainly in the over night hours. This would allow for simulcasting of either a local or a national DAB service to continue to be broadcast on an analogue frequency band – FM or AM/MW – until the broadcaster wishes to finish/closedown the simultaneous analogue transmissions.

    3. Incorporate into the renewal of all DAB Multiplex Service Licences the provision that the software used by the multiplex operator must be updated from the current DAB MP2 version to that capable of also offering DAB+ AAC. My reason for proposing this is that the majority of local DAB multiplexes are currently not able to offer new radio stations the more efficient DAB+ AAC that offers stereo capability at a lower cost than DAB MP2 and therefore some multiplex operators are effectively ‘locking-out’ new potential radio stations.

    I believe that if we are to relax music formats for local AM/MW and FM services that Ofcom must be given the powers to make sure that a wide range of music and speech based formats on national DAB/DAB+ transmitters, including Christian formats, are available to the vast majority of the UK population as well as a range of services on local and small-scale DAB/DAB+ transmitters.