Christian Media

The Future of Christian Television

Here’s my interview with the Think International team on the future of Christian television.  I’d love to know your reaction:

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  1. Hi Phil – your content was great, but their production team let you down
    in a huge way. Your mic was clearly not working, and I am disappointed
    (but not at all surprised) that the crew did not pick this up early, and
    fix the problem.

  2. I am the media director at Bethel Church in Hampton, VA. I ran across this interview on Youtube a few months back and thought the content was amazing. So I shared it with our volunteers at our monthly training meeting. One of my goals is to get our volunteers to see themselves as more than just operators. I want to surround myself with creative forces, innovators, dreamers… and your blogs and videos have definitely played a role in this evolutionary process. Thanks for sharing your experience and expertise.

  3. Well said, Phil.

    And a good start would have been for the Think International crew to have used the audio from YOUR mic instead of the interviewer’s mic…

    Partially making your point.

  4. “Christian media people are not bad people, Pastors are not bad people, the problem is that we focus on the message and we forget how that message is delivered. So, we get the message right, but we kind of mess up on the packaging of the message… how the package is delivered today is just as important as what the message is.” – Phil Cooke

    Incredibly well said Phil.

    I would argue that there is no such thing as “Christian Television” however. There is good TV and bad TV. Period. Good television engages an audience, compels interest through-out the program, creates the desire to see future episodes and as a result of these factors can be financially sustainable (in advertising dollars, donations, etc.). Good television communicates a message, it can be a teaching tool, it can if combined with social media (or future over-the-top services) engage the audience in a dialog with the content creator or other audience members. By these same metrics bad television in neither engaging, compelling or entertaining, has poor ratings despite lead-in, poor retention, is not financially sustainable even if the message contains eternally-sole-saving-truth.

    When we use the term “Christian Television,” we run the risk of promoting the common belief that a dichotomy exists in media or communications. That there is one set of standards for entertainment, sports, education, comedy, news, etc., programming and a different standard for programming which presents the Gospel or is created by a producer who is a Christ follower. There is no such dichotomy nor is there a creative or technical free pass given to media created by Christians.

    Programming is either “good” or “bad,” no matter what the message is or who created the content.

    1. Great point Tom, and I agree with you. However, there are also special interest genres like home improvement programming, sports, news, cooking shows – even channels for the gay community, various cultures, and races. In that light, I do support “Christian” programming for people who want to explore that particular issue. But there’s no question that beyond that, people watch because it’s either a good or bad program.

  5. I guess it was about 6 years ago when the Pastor and I left the whole installed stack of TV kit brought for the church – a nice four camera set-up – and walked over to the Pizza place and ordered the grub…..He then went on to describe about his desire to go on Satellite TV – and I sought to dissuade him……(OK – that’s the hook over with) LOL!

    It was obvious he wanted church growth, and with the proliferation of Christian TV channels and a lot of USA content at the time coming to our country (the UK), no real product offers on the table to make any form of return – let alone profit – I knew, with the Christian TV demographics out there, that there may be a better way of building up his local church……

    The Church had a great enthusiastic bunch of young people – so much so that there was already motivation that could be harnessed and put to very good use. The Church also had good connections with the local community hierarchy and Police force etc …….So I explained to him a concept of getting a small band of these enthusiastic youngsters to get out into the local community shopping centre and corner the youths (and others) to do TV VOX POPS
    on a pre-arranged particular subject (may be a local newsy issue, maybe a topic – anything strong and relevant) and hand out cards with web link information to a live streamed TV prog that was going to come from the church that very evening (You only need one a week of these progs to start with. As we were doing VOX-pops the likelihood of “street participants” ending up on the programme would be quite high – and that would be communicated at the time of filming.

    As the main targeted group would be young people the likelihood of them watching a web based interactive programme would be high – especially if they were likely to be featured etc – they may even tell their friends! I managed to secure a good web name for this Church’s website which was a .tv with their single brand up front. That would have been nice to have on all the T shirts strongly advertising the catchy web link out on the streets – pushing the intrigue into this LOCAL TELLY THING!

    With a quick cut up of the various VOX-POP comments being fed in through the live programme – and the programme itself encouraging e-mails / text and live phone calls it would have been an inexpensive way to do TV – and would open dialogue to the local community at various levels. Different ways could then be explored to promote the interactive programming – and if the model was successful other churches across the world could watch at the same time – and maybe adopt a similar model for their locality.

    I have been also struggling with conceptualising a relevant TV what really connects people with a strong LOCAL church. There is a tendency now for channels to make themselves “Sole Church” for a section of viewers – which is sort of fine if you are a shut-in (unable to get out) – but not for the able bodied person. I am not against Christian Satellite TV – but I see the bucket loads of money that Churches pour into this black hole where if they thought a little “outside that box” it may be much more productive and less of a bonfire when our works get “tried” later on!

    Don’t get me wrong, the world (in the wide sense) needs evangelising – and I am not against that, but I think that we could get somewhere in thinking more local TV (as your interview brought out) and to get
    BOOTS ON THE GROUND with VOX-POP crews out there promoting the “engaging nature” of local churches that will get their hands (more) dirty in this
    “soul winning and keeping” Christian TV. We tend to reverse the natural, Spiritual growth of Ministry in going to “the uttermost part of the Earth” first and ignoring our Jerusalem and Judea – Acts 1:8.

    You don’t have to take expensive cameras out into the highways and Byways to do VOX-pops these days – an inexpensive HD Palmcorder with maybe a Zoom H4n and Rycote windjammer will do the job – a homemade traditional sized clapperboard (for editors sound / vision sync) will cause additional attraction and buzz. PluralEyes can probably help (not tried it
    myself yet) to take away the tediousness of matching sound sync on the edit – for those without much time (or inclination) to do the clapperboard matching!

    A quick browse around the web will find quite economical ways of setting up a multicamera Web TV studio that will be in-budget for even small churches these days as the prices are so good – I
    have no commercial interest here (and this is not a product recommendation) – but this is just one example of what is out there for simple production:

    – be sure to look around! Ensure you get good advice before any purchase – and have enough “calling and conviction” that this would work in your Jerusalem to see things through….. all I am doing is bringing an
    idea to the table!

    I cannot tell you that it was tried back those 6 years ago….the decision was to “go to satellite” instead of giving the above a go. After a year or two the Satellite TV was pulled. Maybe it was a tad early
    in those days to suggest starting on Web TV…..I guess the best shot at this would be about now as better bandwidths are supported and the web user
    demographics are getting much broader.

    Well now …..You have my contribution towards thinking about the future of Christian TV. The bottom line is…. what is the purpose of Today’s Christian TV? We really need to think that through. Maybe we all in this industry need to create a pie chart with segment sizes according to the various purposes – and then to examine if we are effectively doing our “1
    big thing” (the biggest segment) in the best way.


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