Vision Interfaith Satellite Network


Vision Interfaith Satellite Network
Vision Interfaith Satellite Network
VISN logo.png
Launched 1987
1988-07-01 sign-on
Owned by National Interfaith Cable Coalition
Country  United States
Language English
Replaced by Faith & Values Channel
Odyssey Channel
Hallmark Channel

The Vision Interfaith Satellite Network (VISN) was a religious television network formed in the late 1980s. The channel became known as the PBS of religion for the inclusive nature of its programming,[1] which was designed to "place its accent on dialogue rather than apologies."[2]

The network was formed by cable operators[3] and intended to be programmed by an interfaith group called the National Interfaith Cable Coalition. The channel went through several names including Faith and Values Channel and Odyssey Channel before becoming the Hallmark Channel with minimal religious content in 2001. Throughout the latter 1990s, the channel hosted a continuously diminishing roster of religious programming.

Background

The VISN network was formed in late 1987 by the National Interfaith Cable Coalition (NICC). The NICC was an interfaith foundation created to provide programming and guidance to VISN. Many of the initial members of the NICC were also members of the National Council of Churches, whose membership had experienced trouble keeping airtime for local religious programming following media deregulation in the 1980s.[4] The startup costs of VISN were covered by several cable companies. Spearheaded by Tele-Communications Inc, early financial backers of the channel included American Television & Communications, United Cable, Jones Intercable, Post-Newsweek Cable, and Heritage Communications.[5][6][7] The network was owned by the NICC and the Liberty Media Corporation, a subsidiary of Tele-Communications Inc.[3] Although the network was advertising supported,[4] it disallowed on-air solicitation by its programming.[7]

In part the network was a response to the televangelist scandals of Oral Roberts, Jim Bakker, and the PTL, and the general popularity of conservative religious television such as CBN.[3][5][6] Another goal of the network was to help ease the crowding of local cable networks by combining their programming into one channel.[5] This goal was enumerated by Robert Thomson of founding company Tele-Communications Inc., who reported that "No operator has the capacity for a separate channel for each denomination."[7]

VISN went on-air July 1, 1988. At launch the NICC was represented by 23 faith groups covering all branches of Christianity.[7] Also, certain existing channels were represented with the inaugural members of the NICC, the Gospel Music Network among them.[4] The hope was to have an audience potential of 35 to 40 million viewers after five years.[7]

VISN reached 6.4 million viewers by 1990.[7] The network continued to expand rapidly, reaching 12.8 million two years later.[8] By 1992 VISN represented 54 faith groups including a full range of Christian denominations from Episcopalians to Latter Day Saints, to non-Christian groups such as Buddhists, and Muslims. In late 1992, VISN merged channels with the American Christian Television System, a network owned by the Southern Baptist Radio and Television Commission. Both networks would share the same satellite space and be independently owned, but each would run their own programming and maintain separate logos and identities.[8] The ACTS network brought 8.2 million viewers, increasing VISN's total coverage to about 20 million. The combined network was called VISN-ACTS.

The Channel was renamed to the Faith & Values Channel in 1993, and its programming refocused to include more news and information.[9]

The cable industry wouldn't put country music, rap, rock, polka and big bands into one channel. That's exactly what they've tried to do with Faith & Values.

—Bob Higley, vice president, TBN[10]

In 1995 Tele-Communications Inc, the originating founding sponsor, bought a 49% stake in the channel and began to rebuild its programming with a focus on entertainment, eliminating all preaching programs.[10][11] VISN had long been pressured by the competition created by other religious channels in cable markets. Long-time rivals included TBN, EWTN, and FamilyNet. In 1995 the Trinity Broadcasting Network called the Faith and Values Channel "a failed experiment in religious programming",[10] stating that its overarching approach to faiths and entertainment programming hurt its efforts at attracting viewers.[10] By 1996 the channel programming was such that it was said to eschew its own religious label.[12]

Citing poor growth, the channel was renamed to the Odyssey Network in 1996 and given the tagline "Exploring Life's Journey".[13] At the time of the name change, viewership potential had increased to 25.6 million, and the NICC espoused representatives from 65 faith groups.[12]

The network continued to have problems throughout the late 1990s. External competition from PaxNet and CBS, the need for internal harmony, and general funding issues kept the channel from garnering high quality programming like Touched By An Angel and Nothing Sacred.[14] The channel sought new partners to rectify the situation, landing the Jim Henson Company and Hallmark Entertainment in 1998.[15] Their 1999 relaunch refocused the network's programming to include more family and values-oriented entertainment and even less direct religious content.[15]

In 2001 the channel was renamed to The Hallmark Channel.[16] The station now had little religious content, and a potential viewership of 30 million.[16] The SBC pulled ACTS out of the network in 2003 and withdrew from the NICC.[17]

Faith & Values Media is a production company owned by the NICC. It continues to produce content both for television and on the internet. The corporation owns about 5% of the Hallmark Channel and has a long-term contract with them.[18] In 2007, a subsidiary of Faith & Values Media acquired Ecunet, an online, ecumenical discussion forum.[19]

Religious Television Networks, 1995
Network (millions)
CBN / Family Channel
  
62.4
FamilyNet
  
35
Trinity Broadcasting
  
27
Faith & Values
  
24
Inspiration Network
  
9
Potential viewers of religious television networks, 1995.[20]

Notes

  1. ^ Martin, James (1994-10-22). "Tired of Mother Angelica?". America 171 (12): 27). 
  2. ^ "Network's Ecumenical Vision a Boon to Airwaves". National Catholic Reporter 34 (27): 32. 1998-05-08. 
  3. ^ a b c Bcozkiewicz, Robert E. (1988-08-02). "New TV Network May Crowd the Market". Christianity Today 32 (12): 55–56. ISSN 0009-5753. 
  4. ^ a b c "Church groups aim to form cable network". Broadcasting & Cable: 82–84. 1987-11-09. ISSN 1068-6827. 
  5. ^ a b c "Cable operators search for space". Broadcasting & Cable: 104–107. 1988-04-04. ISSN 1068-6827. "As for Vision, Jones [Intercable] is leaning towards the "possibility of establishing a single broadly based religious service," said [Greg] Liptak [vice president of operations for Jones], that would combine programing from such national services at ACTS, the Eternal Word TV Network and National Jewish Television with Vision, depending on the religious makeup of the area." 
  6. ^ a b "Cain and Abel on cable". U.S. News & World Report: 54. 1988-03-21. ISSN 0041-5537. OCLC 7786209. "Conservative churches have told their story brilliantly," says [Rev. Daniel Paul] Matthews, [rector of New York's Trinity Episcopal Church]. "Now it's our turn." 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Dukes, Anne (1990-10-01). "After the PTL fall, religious nets face a hard sell". Multichannel News 11 (40): 22–25. 
  8. ^ a b "VISN, ACTS Sign Agreement To Share Single Cable Signal". Religious Broadcasting (National Religious Broadcasters) 24 (9): 32. October 1992. ISSN 0034-4079. 
  9. ^ "VISN/ACTS sees the light preps for "Massive Relaunch"". Multichannel News 14 (43): 18. 1993-10-25. ISSN 0276-8593. OCLC 7398798. 
  10. ^ a b c d "Broadcasting Network Inc.". Multichannel News 16 (33): 16. 1996-08-14. ISSN 0276-8593. OCLC 7398798. 
  11. ^ Calian, Carnegie Samuel (1995-10-02). "Redeeming the wasteland? Christian TV increasingly uses entertainment to spread its message.". Christianity Today 39 (11): 92–103. ISSN 0009-5753. 
  12. ^ a b Katz, Michael (1996-03-18). "Networks Have Faith in Religious Programming". Broadcasting & Cable: 48. ISSN 1068-6827. 
  13. ^ Katz, Richard (1996-07-29). "Faith & Values reborn as Odyssey". Multichannel News 17 (31): 16. ISSN 0276-8593. OCLC 7398798. 
  14. ^ Allen, John L., Jr. (1998-05-08). Ecumenical cable channel seeks partners. 34. "National Catholic Reporter. p. 11. 
  15. ^ a b "Odyssey Channel to be relaunched". The Christian Century 115 (34): 1178. 1998-12-09. 
  16. ^ a b Dart, John (2001-05-09). "Odyssey network changing again". The Christian Century 118 (15): 10. 
  17. ^ Westbury, Joe (2008-10-08). "FamilyNet building sale closes TV era". Baptist Press. http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=29087. 
  18. ^ Downey, Kevin (2008-02-11). "Spiritual Syndicator's Gamble". Broadcasting & Cable: 20. 
  19. ^ Imhoff, Frank (August 27, 2007). "Faith & Values Media acquires the assets of Ecunet". ELCA News Service. http://www.wfn.org/2007/08/msg00283.html. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  20. ^ Calian, Carnegie Samuel (1995-10-02). "Redeeming the wasteland? Christian TV increasingly uses entertainment to spread its message.". Christianity Today 39 (11): 92-103. ISSN 0009-5753. 

References


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