Preaching through private television

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A broadcast apostolate in Germany

Is it possible to make Catholic programmes on private television? How can faith issues be adequately discussed in a minute and a half? To what extent is the Catholic Church involved in major societal debates? Reflection by brother Max Cappabianca OP from Berlin.

Since 2017 I have been moderator of the programme “So gesehen” on “SAT1” (private German television). This format has existed since 1989 and lasts only one minute and fifteen seconds. I do it on behalf of the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference. The programme is broadcast every Saturday at 4.58 p.m., alternating between Protestant and Catholic every month. About 800,000 people watch the programme.

At “SAT1”, the audience is younger and therefore generally less church-related. We shoot in different places in relation to the subject matter: for example, for the ethical evaluation of organ donations, we were able to shoot in a real hospital operating theatre. We contributed to Holocaust Memorial Day at the Anne Frank Centre in Frankfurt.

The choice of topics is also oriented towards the needs of a wider audience. In order to keep up with current events, production is often done “at the last minute”: we shoot on Thursdays, edit on Fridays and broadcast on Saturdays. For it is precisely the current affairs that we want to illuminate from a religious point of view: Ethical issues that constitute borderline cases such as euthanasia or the use of drones, social problems such as unemployment and loneliness, current disasters and other events that move people, are issues that also challenge us Christians. I want to introduce a Christian perspective into social discourse.

Is there a future for confessional programmes on private television? A few years ago, the German bishops wondered whether or not it was time to create a specialised Catholic channel, like those existing in other countries (Sat2000 in Italy, EWTN in the United States or K-TO in France). The German Bishops’ Conference opposed this, in order not to hide in a niche, but to remain present on the stage of national broadcasters. I think this is a wise decision. Rather, it is necessary to strengthen the presence on the Internet, which has led to the creation of “Katholisch.de”, a very successful website that mainly reaches an internal church audience. My video clips “So gesehen” as well as my talk “So gesehen Talk am Sonntag” can be viewed there.

Future prospects

The presence of the Catholic Church is still weak in Germany at the moment on YouTube, where many young people seek information on religious issues. In addition, there is an above-average number of fundamentalist Christian preachers, which gives a distorted image of Christianity. Linear television will no longer exist in the medium term either. Streaming services such as Netflix and Sky have a high growth rate, not to mention Instagram, Tiktok and others. The question must be asked: is there a place for Christ on Netflix? I think there is: there are always films that explicitly or implicitly talk about faith and thus awaken it in people. It is important that we Christians “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect ” (cf. 1 P 3:15), because this corresponds to our Dominican charism.

P. Max. I. Cappabianca OP, * 1971, has been a Dominican for 25 years and has been living in Berlin since 2017. He heads the chaplaincy of the Catholic student Edith Stein at Berlin’s universities and leads the two programmes “So gesehen” and “So gesehen Talk am Sonntag on Tour” on “SAT.1”. The article was published in a longer version in the “PaulusRundbrief”, 500th edition, Oct.-Nov. 2020, pp. 11-14, Brussels/Belgium.

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