Isn’t it strange the things you might stumble across as you go about your everyday business. I was sifting through an old cardboard box in the garage containing a real mishmash of unrelated items, and I came across a copy of the Radio Times at the bottom from July 1981. Curiosity took hold of me, and I thumbed through the pages to see what we were watching and listening to almost 40 years ago. For those of you who are interested, I can tell you that the same magazine would have cost 20 pence. It’s a shame it has gone up. I believe it is now £3.30!
As far as our regular tuning in was concerned, we were watching light entertainment programmes such as Summertime Special and the Good Old Days; the main BBC weekday news with Richard Baker started at 5.40pm; Songs of Praise had come from Blackburn Cathedral; The Sky at Night was presented by Patrick Moore; Drama was found in programmes such as Alex’s Harley’s Roots; the guest on Desert Island Discs with Roy Plumley was Roger Moore and children were glued to their sets watching programmes such as Jackanory and the Wombles! Finally, all radio and television broadcasting closed down around midnight.
It is all a far cry from broadcasting today. Some may argue that at least we have moved away, on the whole, from a more insipid and tame age of programming and that there is now much more openness and transparency in presenting. They would rightly say in the past there were some programmes whose content would not be acceptable today in our more enlightened and inclusive society. We also have far more
choice and we are much better informed, discerning and astute, with numerous channels broadcasting 24 hours day across a broad range of programmes, both light and serious.
On the downside, some may say that too much of it is aimed to shock, and too many programmes are far less wholesome and edifying than in the past. There is too much in-your-face stuff today. We are saturated with a constant flow of news, and the term fake news has now entered our vocabulary, with the danger that it reflects anything people don’t happen to agree with. We certainly need to be discerning today, perhaps more than ever. Some people long for a return to that bygone broadcasting age which was generally far less confrontational in style. You may wonder what has all this to do with the Christian faith. Well, I think in an age of mass communication where we are faced with screens and images 24/7 and are bombarded with so much that can either edify or malign, then we need to focus on the importance of that word, discernment. I think Jesus was the most clear-sighted and perceptive person who ever walked this earth. He knew what could build up and what could tear down. He knew that what we feed ourselves with, for good or ill, would eventually be seen in our attitudes and behaviour. He invited us to try to see how to use our best energies to stand up against the corrosion of the world. Discernment is a gift that needs to be fed through honest reflection and dependence on God who sees all things.