Congratulations to the EWTN Radio Network on its 20th anniversary!
Like many, I enjoy syndicated programs from EWTN and other Catholic radio stations such as Ave Maria Radio–especially when I’m out running errands. These stations do an excellent job of providing quality programming related to catechetics, apologetics, family life, spirituality, and politics. Congratulations to all in this industry on a work well done.
Yet I would like to register a plea.
A plea addressed not only to EWTN, but to all involved in the Catholic radio industry.
It is essential, of course, for those responsible for Catholic radio programming to focus on the kinds of programs I mentioned above. But I also find myself wishing for some greater variety. Why can’t there be some entertainment programming on Catholic radio?
Take a look at the website for BBC Radio 4. Go to the menu of program categories and click on “Arts,” “Comedy,” “Drama,” “Music.” You’ll find shows featuring, among many other things, long and short-form radio drama, serialized book readings, short stories, sketch comedy, arts programs, music reviews, panel games, poetry readings. It’s a rich feast. Why can’t Catholic radio offer entertainment and cultural programming of this sort?
Because our mission is to evangelize culture–I suppose the main objection will be. And that’s absolutely appropriate. But isn’t there more than one way to a person’s mind and heart? God bless Al Kresta, for example, for so very clearly and ably walking his audience through the tyrannical escapades of the Obama administration’s HHS mandate. But wouldn’t it be great if Catholic radio also offered a program like the BBC’s Afternoon Play or 15 Minute Drama or Classic Serial? Is it not imaginable that many who won’t listen to a program on Church politics or spirituality might listen to a program of sketch comedy or a show like Book at Bedtime? Perhaps that experience would introduce them to a world they had never thought much about before.
Not that the point of such programming would be merely to attract those outside the Catholic fold. It would also be good for the sake of Catholic culture itself. A culture is most essentially its religious practices (or lack of them). But a culture is also the stories it tells, the music it sings, and the jokes it laughs at.
And I’m not just thinking about programs featuring stories of saints, or of religious music, or of other material that is explicitly catechetical or apologetic. Catholic entertainment programming would not have the values of the BBC, but that doesn’t mean that it would have to be exclusively hagiographic. Catholics in our culture have been great entertainers in the past. Why can’t they be again?
But the BBC is state-funded radio. Yes, it is. And programming budgets for Catholic radio stations I’m sure are already stretched. But if every good idea was neglected because the funds weren’t immediately available, where would innovation be?
And it is a good idea. And what’s more, no one else is doing it. No one. NPR has a minimal slate of cultural programming, but nothing much if anything in the area of original contributions to the arts. It would be pathbreaking for a U.S. radio station, Catholic or otherwise, to start offering dramatizations of serials, plays, short stories, and the like.
There isn’t an audience for it.
Pursue it with supreme artistry, and see if they don’t come.