|If you're a regular reader and a Christian|
(or similarly afflicted with the mindset of any brand of religiousity),
you already know to avoid this journal on Sundays.
|However, if you're|
relatively new to me
~ welcome friend! ~
on weekdays, please enjoy my random scribblings, raves and rants on Eppy, Beatles, and everything that happens to assail my consciousness, unconsciousness and subconsciousness. Feel free to friend me and/or comment to me. If you don't wish to expose yourself (and yes, there are good reasons), I love anonymous comments, too ~ believe it or not!
a little song, a little dance,
a little seltzer down your pants.
Depending upon your "faith"
be on your guard on Sundays.
The eppylover never wishes to offend,
yet she must have her day
to indulge in her own non-beliefs
and vent her frustrations.
It was 18 years ago that the Lord told Howard Conder to spread God's word via the medium of television.
Conder was a raffish former drummer and producer who worked for Brian Epstein, the Beatles' manager, and "had the privilege" to audition the Bee Gees.
After spending the 80s in America, he heard God speak, reformed his rock'n'roll ways and, eventually, returned to Britain on a mission to create a Christian television channel. When his bank manager asked for his business plan, he responded: "Moses didn't have a business plan."
'The show is like a coffee morning in slow motion'From The Guardian website
Revelation TV, a low-budget, family-run Christian cable station, has finally won its battle to be allowed to raise funds on air. Is this the birth of British televangelism? Patrick Barkham spends a day on set.
Friday March 2, 2007
You can find heaven, and part with a small slice of your personal fortune, if you take a trip to the 700s. There are pastors on the phone, and gospel singers crying out in exultation as they make hysterical appeals for your cash on Sky channels 760 to 780. With names such as Inspiration and Loveworld, all but two of this cluster of evangelical Christian stations are beamed to the UK from abroad. In their midst at 765, however, sit a middle-aged couple from Surbiton chatting about the morning newspapers. It's a bit like a coffee morning in slow motion.
Sporting a silvery thatch of hair that miraculously thickened shortly after he took up Christian broadcasting, 60-year-old Howard Conder reads the Sun's front page on Robbie Williams. "'Happy pills, sleeping pills, 36 espressos, 60 Silk Cut, 20 Red Bulls every day'. I believe he's worth £70m, but he's not a happy bunny," he says, before confessing that he, too, suffers from depression. His wife, Lesley, nods. "We're empty inside, so we need to fill ourselves with the word of God on a daily basis," adds Howard quietly. "Although we read the newspapers, we really need to read the word of God. Sorry, I'm giving a bit of a plug for the Bible this morning."
Welcome to Revelation TV. For the past four years, the Conders have broadcast from a tiny jumble of a studio a minute - and light years - away from the sleek, amoral television companies of Soho and Charlotte Street. When not presenting - although sometimes they do these things while they are on live telly as well - Howard and Lesley direct, produce graphics, answer the telephone, book guests and order equipment. They are helped by their four children, the youngest of whom, Bethany, 11, has her own show, R Kidz, and a youthful staff of 15. Shunned by mainstream advertisers and barred by Ofcom from raising funds on air, the Conders have scrimped and saved and remortgaged their house to keep on broadcasting.
Now all that has changed. Despite the opposition of the Church of England, which fears the "potential for exploiting viewers' sensitivities", Howard Conder's lonely lobbying has paid off: Ofcom has amended its regulations to allow Revelation TV to ask for money on air. Is this the birth of British televangelism? Will well-fed pastors coerce money out of Brassic of Bolton while happy-clappy hordes charm cheques from Gullible of Guildford?
It was 18 years ago that the Lord told Howard Conder to spread God's word via the medium of television. Conder was a raffish former drummer and producer who worked for Brian Epstein, the Beatles' manager, and "had the privilege" to audition the Bee Gees. After spending the 80s in America, he heard God speak, reformed his rock'n'roll ways and, eventually, returned to Britain on a mission to create a Christian television channel. When his bank manager asked for his business plan, he responded: "Moses didn't have a business plan."
Swing open Revelation's studio door, and a religious rock anthem punches you in the guts. Howard, with a studded leather belt between blue shirt and jeans, and Lesley, wearing a comfortable jumper, have arrived seconds before their 10.30am morning show ("It's cheaper to travel on the trains after 9.30," explains Howard). They are not sure if they've got all their newspapers. Their star guest, US-based evangelist Juanita Bynum, has been delayed at Heathrow. And Lesley has a cough. "Mum, what time is this meant to come out?" pipes up their second eldest, Joel, 22, who is creating graphics for their news bulletin (Revelation's weather is a shot of the map in the Daily Mail).
Luckily, life on screen is calmer than off it. Howard and Lesley begin their morning show by discussing Revelation's fourth birthday. "I've been opening the post and there's all these lovely cards," says Lesley. "With lovely messages." They read out emails. One contains a video message, so Howard holds his laptop up to the camera and plays it: you can see the viewer, but there's no sound. "Today's technology is not just for the young folks," he urges his audience. "Get into the 21st century, because it's the way to connect with the gospel."
The modern church, he says, must be more than a building. "I believe Jesus Christ would have gone to the media, the marketplace, had he the opportunity. Today, people watch TV like never before. It's the way to connect. I believe we can have a church without walls, on the box."
The Conders spend all day, and most of the night, on television. Howard, who for several months slept on a couch in the studio so he could present a third daily live show at midnight, still stays well beyond the end of his "flagship" evening show at 10pm. When they return to Surbiton, Revelation plays on their telly - mainstream broadcasting is "an open sewer pouring into the home," reckons Lesley - although their children, who are not all committed Christians, switch over to terrestrial pretty sharpish when their mates come over.
Are Howard and Lesley the Richard and Judy of evangelical Christian broadcasting? "More like Punch and Judy," quips Howard, who has a disconcerting habit of directing while live on screen. "Joel, if you get that song ready, we'll go to that in the break," he says as he reads out an email. Later, he realises that their sole camera operator, who scampers between three cameras, has not turned on the monitor. "Peter, I haven't got a monitor there to look at," he says slightly testily. "Could you switch it on, then I know that I'm on screen."
Someone must be watching over the Conders because, despite their minimal budget, there have been no real disasters. The closest they came to broadcasting sinful obscenity was when Neil Horan, the kilt-wearing "protest priest" who barged his way into the 2004 Olympics, invited himself into their studio on the day of the London tube and bus bombings. "He was wearing a kilt the size of a handkerchief," says Lesley. Somehow they ushered him off air before he could expose himself.
They are not sure, however, who exactly is watching them, because they can't even afford to buy the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board (Barb) ratings to reveal their viewing figures. Revelation's eight phone lines keep flashing, though, and their callers are not all devout Christians. "There are so many people out there who watch Revelation because they say it's non-threatening," says Lesley. "We don't want it to be a little religious club."
Bizarrely, in the studio next door in this unfashionable corner of central London, is the Islam Channel. "Their pizzas came to us yesterday," says Eleanor Angelides, 22, who began as a volunteer and now co-presents Revelation's youth show, Free4All. "We get on really well with them." Howard says he has lent his Muslim neighbours broadcasting equipment and invited them on his show as guests. "We don't agree with each other in terms of theology, but we have a lot of common ground - we agree with what the scriptures say on abortion issues and we help where we can."
Some viewers have complained to Ofcom about Revelation TV. "People call me homophobic, Islamophobic, all sorts of phobic. That goes with the territory," says Howard, unrepentantly. The gospel's message is like a "bitter pill", he reasons. "Not pleasant to take, but the after-effects are good."
Initially, at least, any UK-based attempts to raise money are likely to be modest. The only other British-run Christian TV channel, UCB, says it has no plans to show on-air fundraising.
Making television is never cheap. Revelation costs up to £200,000 a month to run, but it has survived by selling airtime to other churches for both programmes and commercials. The Conders have just launched a new youth-oriented music channel, Genesis, and want to buy an outside broadcast van so they can take Revelation on the road. "To me it's still hokey," says Howard. "I want to do something a bit more professional, but our viewers tell us, 'We like it, we don't want something like the American channels where they have gold thrones and that sort of thing'. "
Revelation TV's first fundraising week ended on Wednesday night with more than £300,000 pledged from 2,000 callers. At one point, Howard went on strike from his own channel and refused to turn up for presentational duties on Sunday because he didn't like the American style of a US pastor he invited over to help with the week.
"We won't be buying a private jet, we won't be buying a car. It's all going to go into the pot and we'll be accountable to you. We will be accountable to God," Howard tells his audience, promising just two fundraising weeks each year and the publication of their accounts every month.
He insists there will be no more American-style appeals for rainfalls of cash to cascade from the heavens. "It's going to be done in a very tasteful way. There's going to be no manipulation whatsoever," he says. "I don't know if you've seen all those screaming people ... It's not going to be like that at all".