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New Catholic presence on Pay TV

Australian Catholic Church Television (CCTVA) launches today on the new Aurora Community Television channel as part of the basic Digital packages of pay TV operators Foxtel and Austar.

Aurora TV is an independent, non-profit channel broadcast free of charge by Foxtel and Austar as part of their community obligation. New subscribers and those who have migrated to the providers' Digital service have access to Aurora on Channel 183. The Digital service gives the operators the opportunity to carry many more channels than the original analogue service, which began ten years ago.

Aurora provides a voice on Australian TV for faith-based groups, not-for-profit social service companies and non-Government organisations. Other groups taking part include the Salvation Army, Anglican Media, Mission Australia, UNICEF, Red Cross, UNHCR, Australian Asian Youth Centre, Plan International, the Australian Film Radio and Television School and Swinburne Film School.

The "face" of CCTVA is Fr Richard Leonard (pictured), Jesuit priest and film critic, who has been appointed director of CCTVA.

"For many years now the Church has had little direct presence on Australian television and so the Bishops Committee for the Media seized the opportunity to have access to an increasingly important television outlet where we can put to air programs from which we think the Catholic and wider community will benefit," Fr Leonard said.

While Foxtel and Austar broadcast Aurora free of charge, CCTVA must pay for the acquisition and production of programs, and air time.

"Unlike running an entire channel, the costs and the associated risks in this venture are smaller for the Church," Fr Leonard said. "The amount of time we are on the air will only be limited by the money we can raise for sponsorship, programming and buying on-air time."

Initially, CCTVA will broadcast Mass three times a week on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday at 10:00 am, as well as putting to air Australian documentary films that focus on the liturgical season, a feast day, or a national observance.

"We want CCTVA to be of service to Catholics throughout Australia, as well as getting our message out to the people who up to this point don't come near the Church," Fr Leonard said.

Foxtel and Austar Digital presently reach 750,000 homes, but with the phasing in of an inclusive digital service in the next few years, that number will climb to 2.25 million homes, with a projected reach of nearly 7 million Australians. Foxtel is available in state capital cities and regional WA, while Austar is available in all other locations.

"That's the sort of marketplace where the Church should have a voice," he said.

The initial schedule is reproduced below. CathNews is about to introduce a new feature that will incorporate CCTVA program listings on an ongoing basis.

"Mass For you At Home"
Tuesday 1st March 12 Noon
Friday 5th 10.00am and 4.00pm
Saturday 6th March 10.00 pm (Vigil Mass for 4th Sunday of Lent)

Documentary Film: "Conflict Resolution"
As part of our Lenten observance we focus on one of the ways to Caritas in Project Compassion is put to long-lasting effect in East Timor and beyond, by helping enemies forgive each other and be reconciled for the common good. It's a very practical application of "loving our neighbour, as we love ourselves".
Tuesday 1st March 12.30pm
Friday 5th 10.30am and 4.30pm
Saturday 6th March 10.30 pm (Vigil Mass for 4th Sunday of Lent)

Australian Catholic Church Television Launched (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference 28/2/05)

Aurora Community Television
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference | Australian Catholic Film Office | Bishops' Committee for the Media
Mass for You at Home (National Catholic Television Library)
At the altar of the silver screen (Sydney Morning Herald 4/6/04)

Australian movie priest earns PhD in Cinema Studies (CathNews 9/2/04)

29 Mar 2005