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August 06 2002

India´s first Church-promoted TV channel has gone on air with a mission to uphold moral values through family programming.

"It is a great feeling that the country´s first complete family channel has been started," said Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil of Erankulam-Angamaly, who blessed the studios in a formal opening ceremony Aug. 1.

Jeevan (life) TV, based in Kochi, 2,595 kilometers south of New Delhi, telecasts educational and entertainment programs mainly in Kerala state´s Malayalam language.

Cardinal Vithayathil, major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, called the launch of the channel dedicated "completely" to family and moral values "a momentous occasion."

"Our main objective is not commercial," he stressed, saying the channel will counter "threats posed to society by commercial television channels" through its broadcast of family-oriented programs.

The 250-million rupee (US$5.2 million) project begun some three years ago has some 7,000 shareholders that include Catholic businessmen, dioceses, parishes and religious congregations.

Media analysts such as Uday Lal see the launch as a milestone in the Church´s approach to media affairs in India.

"It shows that the Church wants to spread its message of social work and probably of evangelization through the media channels like television and newspapers," Lal told UCA News Aug. 1.

However, Lal warned that the venture will succeed only if its family-oriented programs can commercially sustain it in the long run.

P.C. Cyriac, the channel´s managing director, said that with a focus on "entertainment, education and information," its programs would be "a big hit" among Kerala´s 31 million people.

"News, cultural programs, entertainment serials and family shows will be the mainstay of our channel," Cyriac told UCA News the day of the launch. He said Jeevan has the right program mix to cater to all groups of people.

The Church-run channel will hold on to certain ethical and moral values that "many television channels in India are lacking," Cyriac stressed. "For instance, we will not accept advertisements of liquor and cigarettes, not even surrogate ones for such products."

The managing director noted that channel is not aimed solely at the some 6 million Christians in Kerala.

Telecast through a satellite that can cover the whole of India, Southeast Asia, Australia, West Asia and Central Europe, the channel aims at a wider audience, Cyriac said. Jeevan TV is the fifth Malayalam channel in India.

Archbishop Jacob Thoomkuzhy of Trichur, whose diocese originally considered developing such a channel, hailed the launch "as a significant turning point in the history of the Indian Church."

On Aug. 1, Jeevan released newspaper ads inviting "a loving and caring generation to watch a television channel with a difference."

Some first-day viewers liked it more than the other four Malayalam channels.

"It has much better clarity and the family music program was very appealing," Mathew Kurien, a Catholic insurance agent, told UCA News Aug. 2.

Reji Jacob said the channel logo in yellow showing two hands touching each other impressed him. "It is a unique logo that gives a message of social harmony and friendship. I hope Jeevan can successfully fulfil its mission," Jacob told UCA News.