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Protocol for Catholic Media Programming and Media Outlets

 

The Protocol for Catholic Media Programming and Media Outlets, developed by the Committee for Communications, was approved by the bishops, with some amendments, at the June 2000 General Meeting. The approved text of the Protocol was issued August 11, 2000. 

For expressions of faith and moral teaching to be authentic, they must be in harmony with the doctrine and practice of the Catholic Church. Bishops, who teach with unique authority and who are the guardians of church teaching and practice, are obliged to see that these expressions are indeed faithful to church teaching. The Code of Canon Law contains numerous examples of the Bishop's right and duty in this matter. Among them are canons which relate to providing norms concerning catechetics and making provision for the availability of suitable instruments of catechesis (c. 775.1), granting the imprimatur (cc. 824, 827), the role of Bishops' conferences in establishing norms for those who give radio and television talks on Christian doctrine (c. 772.2), and the requirement that the name Catholic not be assumed "without the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority" (cc. 216, 300; cf. also c. 312). 

Television and radio, along with Internet-based computer networking which has so rapidly increased in influence, are among the most powerful means in contemporary society for spreading the Gospel. As Pope John Paul II writes in his apostolic exhortation, Ecclesia in America, "For the new evangelization to be effective, it is essential to have a deep understanding of the culture of our time, in which the social communications media are most influential" (#72). 

Canon law urges the pastors of the Church "to endeavor to make use" of these contemporary means of communication (c. 822.1). They are to be among the means the Church uses for catechetical formation (c. 779). "Catholic religious instruction and education ... provided through the various instruments of social communication" are included in this area "subject to the authority of the Church," and it is the responsibility of "the conference of Bishops to issue general norms" in this area (c. 804.1). 

In order to ensure an effective and authentic evangelization by those who would use these media on behalf of the Church, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops establishes the following protocol with regard to a) Catholic religious programming appearing on media outlets which are not specifically Catholic and to b) media outlets designed to be specifically Catholic but which are not directly operated by legitimate ecclesiastical authority:

  1. Catholic Religious Programming on Media Outlets Not Specifically Catholic:

    1. Radio and television stations, broadcast and cable networks, and Web sites which present matters of Catholic faith and morals must always accord with the teaching and practice of the Church and are to take the measures necessary to ensure the authenticity of such programming.

    2. They should voluntarily be encouraged to seek ecclesiastical approbation of their Catholic religious programming by submitting a written request for approval to the diocesan Bishop of the place where the production headquarters of the station, network, or Web site are located, as the competent ecclesiastical authority.

    3. Upon examination of the programming, the diocesan Bishop will determine whether to grant approval.

    4. Without this approbation, outlets may not claim that programming is "Catholic."
  2. Catholic Media Outlets:

    1. Radio and television stations, broadcast and cable networks, and Web sites which intend to function as Catholic media outlets should voluntarily seek ecclesiastical approbation by submitting a written application to the diocesan Bishop of the place where the production headquarters of the outlet are located.

    2. The written application should contain: a) the outlet's or Web site's mission statement and goals and objectives; b) a description of Web site content or the nature and content of radio/TV programming; c) a copy of any written programming policy or Web site standards: d) the resources usually employed in preparation of radio/TV programming or source material for Web site content; and e) a list of officers and board members of the outlet or webmaster/authors of Web site.

    3. After careful consideration, the diocesan Bishop, as the competent ecclesiastical authority, will determine whether to grant approval.

    4. Approval for an outlet is for a period of five years. Media outlets are to submit an application every five years or sooner if there is a change in policy or management.

    5. The approval may be revoked at any time at the discretion of the competent ecclesiastical authority. Notice of revocation will be published by the diocesan bishop through the means of diocesan media. 

    6. Where an outlet's programming will appear in other dioceses as well, the diocesan Bishop is asked to advise its owners and managers to submit the radio or television station's application (described in B, #2), along with his votum, to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops to receive approval as a national or regional Catholic media outlet.

    7. The Conference's Committee for Communications, in consultation with other appropriate Conference Committees, will examine the outlet's application and a sampling of the programming offered by the outlet in order to assess whether its operating principles are in conformity with church teaching and practice and whether it adheres to professional communication standards and practices, such as having a process for dealing with complaints about programming.

    8. Upon completion of the review, the Chairman of the Committee for Communications is to forward the application to the Administrative Board, along with the Committee's recommendation whether the outlet should be given approval as a national or regional Catholic media outlet.

    9. Approval for an outlet is for a period of five years. Media outlets are to submit an application every five years or sooner if there is a change in policy or management.

    10. The approval may be revoked at any time. The revocation of the approval by the local Bishop automatically results in the revocation of the Conference's approval. Notice or revocation will be published by the Conference through the use of various media.

NOTE: Since all Web sites are potentially available everywhere throughout the world, it would be impossible for the Conference to participate in their oversight. It is recommended that those who run a Web site which they wish to identify as Catholic make application to the Bishop of the diocese in which it originates, as described above.


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