"The press is the best instrument for enlightening the mind of man, and improving him as a rational, moral and social being."- Thomas Jefferson
The media dominates public life and shapes the perceptions and beliefs of individuals and communities. The media filters though many outlets such as television, print, radio, online and mobile services and has always had an intrinsic relationship with religion and spirituality. According to Stewart Hoover, most of what we know in regards to religion, morality, spirituality and values come from the media. (Hoover, 2006)The media is not merely an instrument for information or communication but influences individual attitudes and behaviours.
The media is reaching spectacular and exponential growth especially with the prevalence of electronic mediums, such as online resources and radio which allows media to access all areas including remote and secluded parts of the country.( Horsfield, Hess, Medrano, 2004) This ultimately increases societal control.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (the ABC) has been sharing and discussing religious, spiritual, moral and ethical issues within Australia for the past seventy-five years and is a reliable and highly reputable source of information and entertainment. The ABC contributes to the multicultural and dimensional identity of Australia.
The topic of religion is easily avoided by some organizations and individuals alike as it is often fuelled with debate and controversy both within the private and public spheres. However, such media programs such as The Religion Report on Radio National and Compass on the ABC television network address such issues without discrimination or bias.
Compass and The Religion Report aim to ask questions which challenge and critically examine the world of religion. These programs delve into both contemporary and past issues in order to reach a better understanding of religion and the role it plays in the media today. They create an environment which is accepting of all races, religions and backgrounds and celebrates the fact Australia is a melting pot of cultures. These programs provide a healthy environment for debate and encourages people to freely discuss issues they feel strongly and passionately about.
The Religion Report
The Religion Report is broadcast on Wednesdays at 8.30 am and is presented by Stephen Crittenden. This program solely dedicates their program to promoting and illustrating the vast beliefs of Australians. Religious broadcasting is becoming more popular and is “immediate, intimate, portable and inexpensive… and radio is the most pervasive medium in Australia.” (Cunningham & Turner, p133, 2006)
It is sometimes difficult to report and discuss religious issues because of the complexities of different faiths and beliefs systems. However, the Religion Report discusses and understands different religions with a broad amount of knowledge and information.
The Religion Report caters to a wide range of audiences, age groups and uses comprehendible language for both literates the non literates (the advantages of radio). Radio is easily updated and therefore recent; so issues discussed on this program are always topical and prevalent in the media at the present time. Statistics show that ninety-nine percent of Australian households have a television and all households have a least one radio. (Cunningham and Turner, p76, 2006) This reveals that we are all constantly surrounded and engulfed with different forms of media.
The Religion Report is also successful because of its use of ‘Talk Back.’ This enables listeners to call in and give their opinions and ask questions about certain issues which is discussed during the program. This interaction creates a connection between the listener and also assists in informing and educating which is ultimately a process and tool for development.
Another program by the ABC Network is Compass which is televised every Sunday night at 10.00 pm and hosted by Geraldine Doogue. Unlike radio, television has a visual medium which can sometimes be more powerful and influential because an individual can identify with what is being displayed. According to Cunningham and Turner (p84, 2006) television is the most widely used mass media in the world. The aim of Compass is to explore the faith and stories of religious and non religious communities and individuals.
The word ‘compass’ has a strong significance and means a navigational instrument for finding directions or a way of life…
"A compass neither shows the way nor makes judgement on the chosen path, instead it provides orientation, a point of reference. It seeks truth ("true north"), and it assists in journeying, even survival. It is of value, as a tool, a guide, an aid in navigation."-Compass 2008
Compass discusses topics which interests a wide range of people. This program interviews not only academics, experts and leaders but everyday Australians who are living out their faith day to day or people who want to share their lives and have a story to tell. This program is not limiting or restrictive and is constantly open to debate and feedback from their viewers.
Each individual or group has something to share and programs like The Religion Report and Compass delve into issues which is not usually covered by other media outlets. These programs aim to bring about a religious or spiritual experience and are a tool for development.
Compass- ABC1 Network, http://www.abc.net.au/compass/default.htm [accessed online]
Cunningham, S., Turner, G., (2006) The Media & Communications in Australia- 2nd Edition, Allen and Unwin, Crows Nest, Australia.
Horsfield, P., Hess, M., Medrano, A., (2004) Belief in media http://books.google.com.au/books?hl=en&lr=&id=XopB3_db0jAC&oi=fnd&pg=PA197&dq=Adorno+religion+and+media&ots=2u9F2F2U09&sig=MyNfwy641At8_D9F0NH4DpJ--8o#PPR17,M1 [accessed online]
Hoover, S., (2006) Religion in the Media Age, www.books.google.com.au,[accessed online]
The Religion Report- Radio National, http://www.abc.net.au/rn/religionreport/ [accessed online]