Created By: AgProv on October 9, 2012 Last Edited By: AgProv on January 26, 2015

The God Slot

Where TV is forced by law to put its hands together and pray.

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That proportion of a TV Station's output which must be given over to religious programming, generally on the Holy Day. British TV is bound by government legislation to give over a certain percentage of its output to religious broadcasting. While it can make up part of this mandatory output with documentaries about religion, it is explicitly bound to broadcast at least one Christian religious service on a Sunday. There must also be a full service of religion on the High Holy Days, ie Easter and Christmas must include at least one full religious service broadcast to the nation on Easter Sunday and Christmas Eve/Christmas Day. Usually the state Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church take turns at the big "Cup Final" events such as Easter and Christmas. In recent years, the Chief Rabbi has been allowed to make a national sermon on TV at the time of the Jewish New Year. Things are more relaxed on radio, where the state BBC radio service is legally obliged to broadcast a Thought For The Day mini-sermon on Radios Two and Four every morning. The major Christian denominations, as well as agreeable people like Rabbi Lionel Blue, are regulars here: the Buddhists have also been allowed to do Thought For The Day, as have the H Indus. As yet, there has been no official BBC acknowledgement of Islam on radio or TV.

Confusingly to the American mind, the sort of religious service that involves an impassioned televangelist of the Oral Roberts/Pat Robertson/ Jimmy Swaggert variety demanding all your money - well, this is strictly prohibited on British terrestrial TV. American televangelism is also thought of as being a vulgar travesty. Garner Ted Armstrong, way back in the 1960's, got round this Satanic restriction by paying the pirate radio stations to broadcast his sermons and pleas for cash from outside British jurisdiction. note  The Irish state broadcaster RTÉ offers even more time to religion, but for obvious reasons this is almost exclusively Roman Catholic. RTE radio broadcasts the Catholic Angelus Bell at six every day. This has led unkind listeners, unaware of the convention, to make bad jokes about the Irish time signal. (the time signal in Britain beeps six or seven times at six o'clock. The Angelus rings a bell at least eighteen times. As - quite deliberately - RTE can be received loud and clear over most of Great Britain, the two have often been confused.)

Live Action TV:
  • Harry Secombe on Sunday evening hymns and reflections show, Highway.
  • His predecessor on the show, the saintly Jess Yates.
  • The eccentric and much loved Rabbi Lionel Blue, kosher chef, religious thinker, and one of maybe half a dozen British Jews the average bloke could name, if asked.
  • Rabbi Julia Neuberger, who like the gay Rabbi Blue has an impediment preventing her from becoming Chief Rabbi any time soon.
  • ex choirboy and Sunday morning radio God-slot person AledJones.
Community Feedback Replies: 13
  • October 9, 2012
    Conversely the first Amendment to the American Constitution means that channels can't be legally required to broadcast religious programming. Most stations in the U.S. are privately owned, which is why the televangelists demand so much money.
  • October 9, 2012
    US laws did at one time require television stations to have a certain amount of public or community service programming. Many stations chose a religious program, especially on Sunday morning, as a service to housebound Christians.
  • October 9, 2012
    This is the sort of information that's really useful, as outside the stereotype of the greedy hypocritical right-wing fundamentalist televangelist, I know nothing of the scope of religious broadcasting in the USA or of the regulatory framework governing it. So far i can only talk for Great Britain!

  • October 13, 2012
    We have similar things here in Germany: Church masses shown by the public broadcasters at the High Holidays (at Easter Sunday even live from Saint Peter's Square in Rome), and the mini-sermons in the morning radio. A a well-known TV mini-sermon is the Wort zum Sonntag ("Word for Sunday"), broadcasted by the ARD (basically Germany's BBC) every Sunday after the evening news. (I have no idea though, if and to what extend the stations are required to broadcast this stuff by law.)
  • October 13, 2012
    Unfortunately, I was unable to dig up support for my memories on Wikipedia, but it is my recollection that until sometime in the 1970s, most of such programs were local in the US--stations would either invite a pastor or priest in, or set up a camera at a local church. All very low-budget, but there usually wasn't anything else to watch that early on Sunday morning.

    Then in the late 60s early 70s, we started getting the televangelists, who would actually pay the stations to run their programs, and had slick shows with higher production values. This was even better for local stations' pocketbook and the old local propgrams faded away until now only a hardy handful can still be found.
  • October 14, 2012
    Is this a Useful Note?
  • October 14, 2012
    Sounds like Friday Night Death Slot and a-almost case of a show about to be cancelled.
  • April 17, 2013
    "As yet, there has been no official BBC acknowledgement of Islam on radio or TV. " - There has been on the Radio 2 breakfast show's god slot. One of the regulars is the female editor of a muslim lifestyle magazine. Sure, it's way out on the liberal fringe of islam, but then it also tends to be the woolier elements of other religions which get airtime too.
  • April 17, 2013
    I don't know if this page belongs on the site, but it's certainly interesting. The idea that a liberal democracy can either force TV stations to include religious programming or ban religions from soliciting donations boggles my mind.
  • January 10, 2015
    @SKJAM: I think the information you are looking for is here

    Widely known as the 1960 Programming Policy Statement, the report listed fourteen "major elements usually necessary to the public interest":
    1. Opportunity for local self-expression.
    2. The development and use of local talent.
    3. Programs for children.
    4. Religious programs.
    5. Educational programs.
    6. Public affairs programs.
    7. Editorialization by licensees.
    8. Political broadcasts.
    9. Agricultural programs.
    10. News programs.
    11. Weather and market services.
    12. Sports programs.
    13. Service to minority groups.
    14. Entertainment programming.

    Those rules were later loosened or dropped in the 80s as being too vague and potentially violating 1st amendment rights.
  • January 10, 2015
    The various American broadcast standards are a whole different matter than setting aside mandatory time for religion on public TV. I'd never heard of this before and it boggles my mind.
  • January 11, 2015
    ^I hadn't either, but I knew that in Germany you have to take at least one school class on religion, so I'm not terribly surprised.
  • January 26, 2015
    There is a similar slot on US stations but for public service programming rather than religion. They tend to be aired at 3am Sunday morning when nobody is expected to watch.