Father Raymond Ambroise, former executive secretary of the Office of Social Communications at the Federation of Asian Bishops Conference (FABC), speaks to the audience during a media conference in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on May 30. (Photo by Stephan Uttom/ucanews.com)
A prominent Catholic media expert has called on Catholics to become "modern missionaries" by "proclaiming truth and the Good News" through the media armed with both "knowledge and commitment."
They should learn to utilize the media by following Jesus' advise to be "Simple as a dove but cunning as a serpent," said Father Raymond Ambroise, former executive secretary of the Office of Social Communications at the Federation of Asian Bishops Conference (FABC).
"We should be cunning or creative. That means we have to be relevant and create something meaningful that people will like. In today's existential context, we don't exist unless we are useful. We have to give people messages that help them, guide them, and find answers to the questions in their lives," added the diocesan priest from India's Telengana state.
Father Ambroise, 75, was speaking at a media conference in Dhaka on May 30. The audience included clergy, laypeople, Christian leaders, and personnel from mainstream and Church-run media.
The event was part of the 50th anniversary of Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a Manila-based pan-Asian Catholic radio station owned by the FABC.
It ran under the banner, "Media for proclamation of Truth and Good News: In the Perspective of Radio Veritas Asia," and was organized by the Bangladeshi Catholic Bishops' Social Communication Commission and Banideepti, the audio-visual wing of the church-owned Christian Communication Center (CCC).
"When we are committed to truth, we can contribute in preaching Good News. We are called and encouraged to be ‘media missionaries' in our everyday lives," said Father Augustine Bulbul Rebeiro, director of the CCC and a producer at RVA Bengali Service.
Catholic dancers perform during a media conference celebrating 50 years of Radio Veritas Asia in Dhaka on May 30. (Photo by Stephan Uttom/ucanews.com)
However, simply preaching the truth is not enough, Father Ambroise warned.
"Catholic media and professionals need to be highly culture-oriented, creative, and should know society well," he said.
RVA started as a shortwave radio station in Quezon City of Manila in 1969 and ended up broadcasting in 22 languages to largely non-Christian audiences across Asia.
Its launched its Bengali Service on Dec. 1, 1980 through the joint collaboration of Banedeepti and Chitrabani, the Catholic Communication Center in Kolkata, capital of India's West Bengal state. Both Bangladesh and West Bengal have a Bengali-speaking majority.
In its heyday, RVA Bengali Service boasted over 200,000 regular listeners.
The RVA went digital in 2007 but it faces the challenge of having to keep pace with the changing times to stay relevant, the Father Ambroise noted.
"Digital media is always evolving, so we cannot say this is the finished product," he said.
RVA Bengali Service has already heeded this advice: it set up an online audio-visual service last year.
Going digital has reportedly saved RVA US$1.6 million a year in broadcasting costs.
"Digital technology is very modern, innovative, and cheap, so we don't need to pay (high costs like before). But the new challenge is to get people who are media savvy to ensure our messages stay relevant and powerful," Father Ambroise said.
"Our presence in the media has be attractive to people who react and come back with feedback. Otherwise, we will become obsolete, a forgotten media."