IBC and the networks
In 1980 ABC was offering a weekly half-hour series called "Directions",
airing 12:30pm Sundays on the network. Individual programs were produced in
cooperation with individual faith groups, with only very occasional programs
done with two or more groups cooperating. ABC would also utilize other, smaller
faith groups for a small proportion of this series. "Directions" had
begun on ABC in 1960. ABC also produced three liturgical specials during the
year. Cooperating groups: Jewish Theological Seminary, National Council of Churches,
Southern Baptist Radio & TV Commission, U.S. Catholic Conference.
In 1984 ABC discontinued its religious production unit, and in January, 1985,
it began producing one-hour specials through its Special Events Unit (four such
specials were produced in 1985-86), with all four faith groups cooperating in
Then, in 1986, following a direction that NBC had taken a year earlier, ABC
proposed to the faith group partners who cooperated with it that they assume
the responsibility for producing programs that would be distributed by ABC.
ABC offered initial production funding for 1987 and 1988; the first program
produced and aired on the network under this arrangement was in June, 1988,
under the series title VISION AND VALUES.
At the same time ABC said that it would no longer produce the liturgical specials,
although it would offer network air time and a feed for programs produced by
the faith groups for three liturgical specials a year (Easter, High Holy Days,
Christmas Eve). This pattern of providing liturgical specials has continued.
Members of the IBC have worked with CBS on various religious programming projects
since 1952, beginning with the distinguished network program series "Look
Up and Live", "Lamp Unto My Feet", and "For Our Times".
Since 1989 the IBC has worked with Executive Producer Jack Blessington and his
team of CBS writers and producers in the production of four half-hour programs
each year in the networks RELIGION AND CULTURE Series.
These programs seek to reflect
the broad array of interests and concerns of Americas faith communities
as they interact with society at large, and are developed in close consultation
between IBC members and the CBS production team. Through cordial contact with
local broadcast affiliates across the country to encourage the scheduling of
these specials, IBC and CBS have continued to maintain a high level of station
clearances for each of the episodes in the Religion and Culture series, which
have been well received by the viewing public.
Beginning in 1950 NBC had produced and offered to its affiliates programs related
to the four major faith groups in America in order to fulfill, in part, its
public service responsibilities. In 1985 NBC (represented by Merryle S. Rukeyser
and Betty Hudson) asked these four faith groups, which were then represented
by the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission, to meet.
At that meeting NBC informed the faith groups that it was disbanding its religion
production unit, although it would continue to produce "liturgical specials"
through Special Events. In place of NBC production of religious (documentary-style)
programs, NBC proposed funding for two years to do program productions which
would air on the NBC network. After discussions, it was understood that these
monies would fund four one-hour specials per year (one each produced by each
faith group). Moreover, the four programs would air in a close-enough time proximity
so that they could be seen by affiliates as a series. NBC also agreed to provide
funding for two years for promotion of the series to stations and to audiences.
NBC specifically stated at this time that future grants under this arrangement,
after the initial two years, would be determined by a demonstrated success in
terms of station clearances.
Programs were produced and aired on NBC beginning in 1988 under the series title
of THE PROMISE OF AMERICA, which was used again in 1989. Beginning in 1990 and
continuing to date the series title has been HORIZONS OF THE SPIRIT.
Promotion efforts by the faith groups in 1988 and 1989 resulted in extraordinarily
high station clearances and ADI's. In fact, the station clearance figures for
both of these first two years under this new arrangement were at least twice
as high as those for the most recent previous NBC religious specials produced
by the network: the average station clearance for the four specials in 1988
was 150 and the average ADI was 82.75%; and in 1989 the average clearance was
148 and the ADI was 87.25%.
However, funding for program production and promotion was reduced in subsequent
years and eliminated altogether by 1992, although NBC would continue to feed
IBC programs to affiliates via satellite.
Moreover, in 1992 NBC News, which had continued to produce liturgical specials
(Passover, Easter, Christmas Eve Mass from Rome, and Christmas Day), informed
the IBC that it would no longer produce these specials (except for the Christmas
Eve Mass) though it would accept programs produced by IBC members for these
holy days and distribute them to affiliates. One result of this decision was
a new Thanksgiving special, produced cooperatively by the IBC on behalf of all
its members, and offered twice (1992 and 1993) to NBC affiliates. In early 1996
the IBC was informed that NBC would consider the Easter (or Passover) special
to be a network program, beginning in 1997.
Of even more import than the funding, around 1990 NBC stopped considering the
documentary programs as network programs (the same was true for liturgical programs
beginning in 1992, with the exceptions noted above), and NBC stopped indicating
to its stations that these were part of the network line-up. Rather, they were
simply offered to the stations on the satellite.
Throughout this process the IBC has continued its commitment to provide the
highest quality of programs to NBC stations -- a commitment which the IBC re-affirms
and continues as it produces both documentary and liturgical programming.