A service from Westminster Abbey. ATV
A service from Westminster Abbey. ATV

Independent Television presents about three hours of religious programmes each week. Though the detailed pattern varies from region to region, a typical schedule is made up as follows:

Church Service 1hr. 15 mins.
A Box of Birds 30 mins.
The Sunday Break 45 mins.
About Religion/Living Your Life 25 mins.
Epilogue (nightly) total 35 mins.

Over the years the pattern which has been established in most areas has its firm basis in the Sunday Morning Service, the nightly Epilogue immediately before close-down, and the two consecutive Sunday evening programmes at 6.15 and 7 p.m. Before the start of Independent Television in 1955 there was very little religious television. Today, in both services taken together, there are more than five hours weekly.

Religious Advisers

The Television Act did not oblige Independent Television to transmit any religious programmes; it provided, however, that if religious programmes were transmitted they must have the ITA’s prior approval, and that the ITA in turn should have the assistance and advice of a committee representative of the main streams of religious thought in Britain. Such a committee, the Central Religious Advisory Committee (C.R.A.C.), already existed as one of the BBC’s committees. The Authority arranged for C.R.A.C. to serve it also, an arrangement which has been entirely successful

C.R.A.C. is a large committee and its chief concern is with major matters of policy. The Authority therefore felt the need for a small group of advisers in day-to-day matters. This need was met by the appointment of the Panel of Religious Advisers, which meets each month to consider and approve the plans of the programme companies. The six members of the Panel are representative of the Church of England, the Free Churches, the Roman Catholic Church and the religious organisations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The programme companies themselves have their own advisers on religious programmes. This system has worked smoothly and ITV’s religious output has steadily increased both in quality and in quantity.

Liaison with Clergy

The ITA and individual programme companies have arranged or participated in many consultations and conferences with clergy and religious groups. There are contacts with national and international religious organisations. Some programme companies arrange training courses for clergy. Special transmissions of religious programmes have been arranged so that clergy may view them at a convenient time.

A consultation arranged by the Authority at Mansfield College was attended by clergy and producers concerned with television. The theme of the conference was expressed by the Reverend Eric Heaton (a member of the Authority’s Panel), who said that religious programmes on television were “probably the only contact with Christianity for a vast number of non-churchgoers of all ages”. The Authority plans to call another consultation in Cambridge during September this year, when it is hoped that overseas clergy and broadcasters will be observers.

Church Services

Sunday morning services have since 1955 been a regular feature in most areas of Independent Television. Denominational “ratios” were early established which provided that services should be transmitted in an agreed proportion between the different denominations; the same ratios apply to transmissions at the great Christian festivals.


The Epilogue is a short programme of a generally devotional, non-denominational character, which is transmitted immediately before close-down. It is almost invariably given by a priest or minister. The Epilogue first came on to the air early in 1956 and today almost all the programme companies produce their nightly Epilogues.

The Sunday Evening Programmes

The period between 7 and 7.25 p.m. each Sunday and from 6.15 to 7 p.m. on three Sundays out of four is devoted to religion. These programmes have provided much imaginative experiment.

The Sunday Break (ABC), now five years old, is presented on three Sundays out of four. From the very first it has attracted much comment and interest. Described as “a magazine programme for young people”, it was originally set in a youth club and included jazz, dancing, discussions and competitions in such a way as to affirm as good in themselves the activities which young people normally enjoy. In 1960 the format was brought nearer to that of a magazine programme, and discussions and documentary films on the problems of young people began to play a larger part in the programme. Among the subjects considered have been Love, Sex, and Marriage; The Colour-Bar; Christianity and Communism; The Problems of Prisons; Christian Unity; Unemployment; Gambling; and The Teenage Bulge. One notable programme was devoted to A Man Dies, a Passion Play written for and produced by teenagers in a wholly contemporary idiom, making use of jive and rock-’n’-roll music.

About Religion (ATV) was established in January 1956 and has been transmitted without interruption ever since. It is presented on three Sundays out of four. Its aim is to make known the teachings and views of the Christian faith by any means at its disposal—whether by interviews, discussions, plays, films, documentaries or outside broadcasts. Among those interviewed have been Lord Fisher and the present Archbishop of Canterbury; those who have taken part in discussions have included Sir John Wolfenden, Cardinal Bea, Kurt Hahn and Rabbi Isaac Levy; subjects covered in a variety of ways have included: Sin and Crime; Loving Thy Neighbour; The Christian in the Forces, in Politics, and in the City; Anti-Semitism; The Vatican Council; Road Safety; and Refugee Camps. Special programmes within About Religion have included three plays: Christmas Night, Christ in Jeans, and This is the End, the first of the new Coventry Cathedral moralities. There has also been a number of series within the overall title, of which the most notable have been Eye Level, a magazine programme, and I Want to Know, in which a panel answered viewers’ enquiries.

Living Your Life (ABC) is presented on one Sunday out of four. It is generally devoted to the discussion of a Christian topic, but from time to time reports on a particular event; for instance, Archbishop Fisher’s visit to Istanbul and Athens.

A Box of Birds

The pattern of Sunday Service, Sunday evening programmes and daily Epilogues remained constant until October 1962 when an entirely new programme was introduced at 12.15 on Sunday mornings. This was A Box of Birds, a programme designed to encourage young people “to look at the world in a Christian way”. This phrase describes the programme well, for it is neither narrowly “religious” nor is it a Sunday School programme. Rather it aims at encouraging the Christian virtues by example. Its methods are various. For example, it has shown a documentary film about an orphanage in South Korea; it has mounted a short dramatic episode illustrating honesty and charitableness; and it has looked at the Crown Jewels and touched upon the subject of Church and State.

Local Programmes

There is considerable regional enterprise in the presentation of religious programmes. Sunday Services are transmitted from time to time by Scottish Television, Tyne Tees and Anglia TV; Grampian Television has its fortnightly Evening Worship; TWW and WWN have services in Welsh. Religious discussion programmes are produced by TWW, Ulster, Scottish Television and Channel, while Westward provides religious feature programmes and a monthly magazine programme.

Over and above all this are the special transmissions, by any or all of the fifteen companies, recording the great Christian Festivals and such events as the enthronement of an archbishop or bishop, or the wedding of a member of the Royal Family.

The Rt Rev W D L Greer, Bishop of Manchester (Chairman)
Miss M Batten, OBE Mrs Margaret Jones
The Rt Rev L M Charles-Edwards, Bishop of Worcester The Rt Rev G E Reindorp, Bishop of Guildford
The Rev C F Davey The Rev Dr W R Sanderson
The Rev Dr Maldwyn Edwards The Rev Dr Donald Soper
The Rt Rev G A Ellison, Bishop of Chester The Rev H S Stanley
The Very Rev Austin A Fulton The Rev F S Temple
The Rt Rev W A Hart, R C Bishop of Dunkeld The Rt Rev W A E Westall, Bishop of Crediton
The Rt Rev T Holland, R C Coadjutor Bishop of Portsmouth The Rev Dr H Williams
  Mr B W M Young

Regular Religious Programmes

Programme Description Company Mins. Time & day Distribution
Church Service Morning service ATV/ABC/Southern 75 11.00 Sunday (weekly) Part Network
    Scottish 75 11.00 Sunday (Occasional) Local
    Tyne Tees 75 11.00 Sunday (Occasional) Part Network
    Anglia 75 11.00 Sunday (Occasional) Local
  Welsh language TWW 75 11.00 Sunday (Occasional) Local
Evening Worship Studio service Grampian 25 7.00 Sunday (2 per month) Local
Box of Birds Children’s programme ATV 30 12.15 Sunday (Weekly) Part Network
Sunday Break Magazine for young people ABC 45 6.15 Sunday (3 weeks in 4) Network
Living Your Life Discussion, report ABC 25 7.00 Sunday (1 week in 4) Network
About Religion Discussion, drama ATV 25 7.00 Sunday (3 weeks in 4) Network
Journey of a Lifetime Film series of visits to Holy Land ABC 15 6.15 Sunday Jan.-June 1962 Network
Seek the Truth Discussion Scottish 30 1.30 Sunday Local
Discussion Series Discussion TWW 20 2.00 Sunday 11.30 Thursday (repeat) Local
Trend Magazine Westward 45 1.15 Sunday (Monthly) Local
The Church in View Discussion programme Channel 30 10.45 Wed. (Monthly) Local
Thought For The Day Prologue ATV 2 12.45 Tue.-Fri. Local
Epilogue Epilogue A-R 5 Close. Mon.-Fri. (Weekdays) Local
Epilogue Epilogue ATV 5 Close. All week Local
Epilogue Epilogue ABC 5 Close. Sat., Sun. Local
Late Call Epilogue Scottish 5 Close. All week Local
The Summary Epilogue TWW 5 Close. Sunday Local
The Living Word Epilogue Southern 5 Close. Mon.-Sat. (6 days) Local
Sunday Lantern Epilogue Southern 5 Close. Sunday Local
Epilogue Epilogue Tyne Tees 5 Close. All week  
Epilogue Epilogue Anglia 5 Close. Mon.-Sat. (6 days) Local
Postscript Epilogue Anglia 5 Close. Sunday Local
End the Day Epilogue Ulster 5 Close. All week Local
Faith for Life Epilogue Westward 5 Close. Sat., Sun. Local
The Unsleeping Sword Bible readings Westward 5 Close. Mon.-Fri. (Weekdays) Local
Evening Prayers Epilogue Grampian 5 Close. All week Local
Epilogue Epilogue Channel 5 Close. All week Local