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Culture

God Via Satellite

Bibel TV - Germany’s first solely Christian television channel goes on air on October 1. It hopes to grab the attention of church-weary Germans and capitalise on a reawakened interest in spirituality.

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Everything revolves around the bible in Germany's first Christian channel, Bibel TV

Young people in Germany may be turning their backs on the church, but that hasn’t stopped the booming popularity of Christian media and especially Christian music in the country, whether it’s gospel, soul or heavy metal.

Theologians are speaking of a new awakened spirituality in Germany, a trend towards "moral meaning" in life, need for tranquillity, balance and a new metaphysics of the mystery of life.

It may all sound a bit esoteric, but the team behind Germany’s first digital niche Christian channel is convinced that beaming God's message directly into living rooms is the formula to success.

Under the motto "I believe. I see", Bibel TV hopes to bring the Holy Scriptures closer to the people.

Interest in things spiritual rekindled

"The churches here (in Germany) have an incredible deficit of young people," Henning Röhl, Executive Director of the non-profit Bibel TV foundation Ltd and himself a member of the German Lutheran Church (EKD) told the German newspaper, Berliner Morgenpost.

"At the same time there’s a strong religious atmosphere in Germany, a newly awakened spirituality that’s overwhelming,"he said.

Bibel TV now plans to cash in on these church-disillusioned but spiritually-awake young people with a funky programme for the video-clip-dance generation.

A Viva-version with a difference

"We want to become a Christian Viva or MTV," Röhl told the German newspaper "Die Welt".

Indeed, music will take much of the air time on Bibel TV. Called "Jericho. Music that transforms", the music programme won’t just play spiritual and choral music by Bach, but also gospel songs and modern rock such as the US band P.O.D. and pop music with a Christian relevance.

Younger viewers will be treated to cartoon characters radiantly singing hymns and narrating stories from the Bible.

The rest of air time will be taken up by everything from the Genesis to Apocalypse as prominent actors read from the Bible, theologians debate on where Christianity is headed, children’s programmes, quizzes, documentaries, movies and small quotes from the Bible turn up on trailers.

The Genesis of Bibel TV

A phenomenon long common in other European countries and in America, a niche religion channel is a first for Germany. Some five Christian television channels already exist in Great Britain and they’re popular in Holland too.

The idea for Germany’s first Christian channel was born five years ago in a hotel room as the controversial publisher from Bonn and self-made millionaire, Normann Rentrop happened to pick up the bible and began to read it.

Since then he hasn’t managed to shake off the influence of the book of all books. "Everyday I find answers and comfort to problems", he was reported as saying.

Rentrop since has been seized by the desire to bring the Holy Scriptures closer to all of Germany. He hit upon the idea of a Christian channel as an antidote to other channels that constantly show "murder and mystery films".

Rentrop also believes that television is the ideal medium for God’s message. "We Germans spend some 20 percent of our time on an average in front of the television," he says on the Bibel TV website.

Rentrop pulled off a coup when he roped in the media-experienced 59-year-old Henning Röhl, former boss of German public broadcasters ARD and MDR, to head the Bibel TV team.

Finances could cause a headache

Financing will however remain a big concern for the Bibel TV initiative.

Though Rentrop’s own non-profit foundation pumped some 12 million euro into the project, Röhl can reckon with just 500,000 to 750,000 euro per year for the channel that will be beamed over the digital Astra satellite into an estimated 1,2 to 1,8 million German-speaking households.

Rentrop hopes that Bibel TV will be able to finance itself in three years through advertising revenues.

His team is open to all kinds of advertising ventures expect those related to telephone sex numbers and the kind. "The advertising must be complementary to the programme," he says.

No proselytising

The Bibel TV team is also clear that its aim is not to proselytise or end up being a missionary television channel. After all "religious advertising" is strictly forbidden under German media laws.

That’s also the reason why Bibel TV will not be broadcasting any mass or sermons in the country.

And though both the German Lutheran Church and the Catholic Church are involved in the project, church authorities are clear that not a cent of church taxes will be diverted to the project.

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