Toward a Catholic TV Mission Statement

Interview with Father José María Gil Tamayo

MADRID, OCT. 13, 2006 ( Television professionals, attending the first World Congress of Catholic TV, left the event with more than just ideas, they left with the beginnings of a common mission statement, says an organizing member of the meeting.

The congress, organized by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, with the collaboration of the Archdiocese of Madrid, drew some 300 participants from 50 countries. The event was held in Madrid, Oct. 10-12.

Father José María Gil Tamayo, secretary of the Spanish episcopal Commission of Means of Social Communication, shared with ZENIT the practical results of the meeting.

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Q: The congress has sought to create or reinforce a network of Catholic television channels, but from the beginning special emphasis has been placed on the latter’s identity. Will this aspect be made more specific, or does Catholic television already have sufficient identity?

Father Gil Tamayo: First we would have to agree on what it means to be Catholic, what minimum features of “designation of origin” mean being Catholic, and that is what identifies us and what will make possible precisely the creation of a network of Catholic television channels.

The connection precisely between one another is the description of Catholic, and the latter is defined by the nature of belonging to the Church, its objectives, its ends and the commitments it acquires, and that, set out in a basic manner in a mission statement that is common to all Catholic television channels, also includes adaptation to different places, to different television formats.

In a word, what we try to achieve is unity in the description of Catholic, with diversity depending on the formats, origin, countries, continents, supports, television genres; unity to foster diversity, but never in opposition.

At the same time, this will make us identify in a common objective, which is the ultimate reason why the Church has means of social communication: That it is now her mission to evangelize in an explicit way in the most thematic and religious television channels, and in an implicit way with a mission statement of Christian inspiration in regard to the concept of life, society, man and God, which is what Christianity proposes in a universe now full of message proposals.

Q: Is the fruit expected from this congress, a common mission statement for all Catholic television channels?

Father Gil Tamayo: It is one of the fruits; to agree on what is common to us, to be grateful and also to take advantage of what is different in order to be enriched: This is the great achievement of this congress, which will spark unity, that conjunction which has always made the Church possible.

We are all the Church, but the Church is local, different in every place, with the characteristics of the men and women of that place, of that time, of their culture. But the Church intervenes, shows the Gospel, in order that it be leaven.

A mission statement, a description of Catholic, cannot be reduced only to some specifically religious programs or an exclusively thematic television, but must also inform in a transversal way, making interesting the proposal of the Christian meaning of man, woman, marriage, the family, life, the economy, etc., knowing that there is no one Catholic solution to plurality, there is no one Catholic solution to what is opinion or the temporal order, but yes showing in that ample ideology all those possibilities of variety in unity.

Q: And when will this instrument — this mission statement — be available?

Father Gil Tamayo: We must begin from a fact: The mission statement is not the solution nor is it a special vigilance or constriction of freedom. On the contrary: It is what marks for the broadcaster his nature, objective, road map, ends.

Second, it generates confidence in the spectator, the viewer and a “reading agreement” is established between the confessed identity of the broadcaster and the features that are reconcilable by the spectator and by all the media in a television which must be Catholic.

Being Catholic also means that grace does not cancel nature, it presupposes it. It must be competitive, interesting and professional television.

Q: From the works of the congress, the contributions of the speakers and the participants, what do you think are the fundamental features of this mission statement?

Father Gil Tamayo: The mission statement is reflected in the clarity of ecclesial membership, in adherence to Christian doctrine, to Christian principles, to the Christian vision of the cosmos, whose guarantor is the magisterium of the Church, and also by the unequivocal acceptance of diversity. This is essential.

In regard to commitments, they are the ethical commitments of the social doctrine of the Church, of the defense of human dignity, of the common good and of the building of the citizenry which a Catholic television must contribute in each place.

We heard it said in this congress that the sense of social service seems to be losing ground in public means; the Church must continue to give the citizenry, perhaps, those services that others abandon, but which are the ones that really build society with a television that forms, informs and entertains.

It must give citizens sufficient elements of judgment for their free decisions and at the same time, according to Christian principles, unite men of good will in the great causes of humanity, especially those where they do not have a voice and at par also build the kingdom of God here, in this world.

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