along with news and information, entertainment is the most obvious and popular role of new media and especially radio.
Programs with music, humour, human interest, drama and other forms bring entertainment into the kitchen, bedroom, office, department store, car — even the paddy field — inexpensively.
Some might doubt whether Christians should be thinking about entertainment. But consider this: communications practitioners in health promotion and community development know their key message is far more effective if wrapped with a layer of entertainment. Listeners pay greater attention to it, remember it, and are more likely to act upon it. Development communicators use edutainment or infotainment where entertainment and education or information are blended together in a radio program.
Every program should have entertainment value if the listener is to stay tuned. By that we mean that it should be enjoyable. At a minimum, this means the program is well-produced. More than that, it should provide something to raise the listener's spirit and satisfy his more aesthetic needs. When God created trees he not only made them functional (providing fruit, materials for building, etc.) but also pleasing to the eye so that we might enjoy them.
Let's take a brief look at the main areas of entertainment: music, popular culture, human interest and humour.
Music has the ability to raise the human spirit to a level that words alone cannot do. It creates an effect or atmosphere to support a few carefully selected words that will have a greater impact than many words. Certain kinds of music are especially valuable in raising the human spirit, warming the heart, softening the emotions and calming fears. All these need to be seen as accomplishing a part of what we are seeking to do as Christian broadcasters. There are many genres of music that appeal both to different age groups and different musical tastes.Talking about the Gospel could follow naturally on from many kinds of music.
Having said that, however, we recognise that in talking about music we enter a minefield of potential controversy. Tastes in music, not least Christian music, differ so widely. What constitutes good music for one person may be the devil's music for another. Apart from certain theological issues no other area of Christian interest causes more controversy or division. It may be helpful to draw up guidelines (rather than rules) that describe what factors need to be considered in selecting music for our programs.
The key to successful music programs largely depends on two broad factors:
Station management needs to provide strong support for producers of music programs. Their music selections will most certainly come under fire from segments of the Christian community who may not approve. They may feel their financial support appears to be going to waste. This is especially true of programs attempting to reach a contemporary audience with different tastes.
Yet Christian broadcasters have seen the need for playing popular music even in more traditional cultures. That is how they identify with their listeners and demonstrate their desire to meet their needs. Having a good understanding of the listener's tastes in music goes a long way to building bridges of trust and understanding.
The term popular culture refers to those creative, artistic, activities that people engage in for relaxation and entertainment. These include books and magazines, travel, sport, music, movies/videos, visual art such as drama, paintings and fashion (e.g. clothing). In the contemporary scene radio and Internet-based interests go hand-in-hand and reinforce one another.
Radio can address these and cover them through book or movie reviews and discussion or interviews with the creative talent associated with them. If the facilities are available, outside (remote) recordings or live broadcasts can be made of productions taking place in the community.
Productions promoting values that contradict the Gospel should only be used for illustrative purposes, and only after careful thought as to the implications for local believers, and the likely response from listeners and authorities.
Listeners just love hearing real people telling real stories from real life. Our experience is that, too often, they are overlooked. We forget that everyone has stories to tell – and people love to tell them. They reflect the heart of the people, their history, and the things that are important to them. These stories are part of the fabric of the community. Christian broadcasters all too frequently stay inside the studio and fail to get out among the people they are talking to through their programs. By telling their own stories they come across as real people themselves — imperfect, having problems of their own, learning to cope with many of the same challenges as their listeners.
All over the world, the most effective radio programs, apart from music and news, are those that give insights into people. They talk about their lives, the things that make them laugh or cry, their hopes and despairs, their failures and their victories. Often these stories can be used without comment and do not need to contain explicit Christian content at all, although they may illustrate Christian values.
Different formats such as interviews, discussion, stories, biographical books or sketches can bring people into programs. A major format is drama that recreates daily life and projects the listener into a participatory experience. The listener interacts with drama rather than remaining a recipient of information. He identifies with characters and situations, experiencing them without feeling threatened. Christian values such as love and forgiveness are much more effectively modelled through drama than verbally talked about or explained. Traditional dramatic forms can often be easily adapted into the radio medium.
The light-hearted side to radio can do more than demonstrate that Christians can have fun and enjoy life. Those who know how to use humour skilfully and appropriately can communicate truth effectively. Humour is culture-bound, so we need to appreciate that humour is, in most circumstances, best performed by those who know their own culture.
Cartoons often provide humorous insights into daily life through the use of graphics so they fit better in web-based applications. They make the absurdity of familiar practices and opinions become apparent so that we can see them more objectively. We might explore ways of cultivating audio versions of the cartoon in an attempt to reveal truth about ourselves, our culture and society. Wit can be quite incisive if used carefully and intelligently. Sadly much of the wit that Jesus used in his teaching is overlooked by most of us: we lack an understanding of Jewish culture at that time and the current talking points of the day.
Last updated 11 Aug 2011
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