by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Fifty years ago, a nearly forgotten federal bureaucrat named Minow called television programming “a vast wasteland.”
Even today, one might be inclined to agree with Minow, and not just about television. Much radio programming ranges from the vapid to the vulgar.
There is, however, a bright spot: Catholic radio.
Catholic radio in the United States has grown from only a handful of stations a few years ago to approximately 170 today. That number continues to grow, according to the Catholic Radio Association.
The vigor and potential of Catholic radio was on display at the 2011 Catholic Radio Conference, Oct. 12 to 15 in Birmingham, Ala. The Catholic Radio Association and EWTN Global Catholic Radio sponsored the conference.
The keynote speaker at the conference on Oct. 14 was Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann. In his address he offered encouragement to those involved in Catholic radio. He also appeared as a guest on the EWTN television program “Life on the Rock.”
“I see Catholic radio as a great tool for bishops for fulfilling our responsibility to catechize Catholics and to evangelize non-Catholics,” said the archbishop. “Catholic radio provides an opportunity for adult education and formation on a daily basis to every Catholic in the archdiocese.”
The archbishop is a broadcasting regular, both on local Catholic station KEXS AM 1090 and some of its sister stations. His programs include “The Shepherd’s Voice” and recordings of his weekly Leaven column.
Archbishop Naumann and Archbishop Emeritus James P. Keleher also alternate on “The Catholic Way” program, reflections on the Mass readings, which can be found on KEXS and certain commercial stations on Sunday mornings.
An estimated 50 percent of Catholic radio listeners are non-Catholic, he said.
“We think that’s accurate because they have shows where non-Catholics call in, and there never seems to be a lack of callers,” said Archbishop Naumann.
Some of these non-Catholic listeners become Catholics. Archbishop Naumann often asks people entering the church during the rites of election what drew them to the church.
“There are always some that say Catholic radio and television were significant factors,” the archbishop said. “It’s a very non-threatening way for someone, who is not Catholic but has a curiosity about Catholicism, to learn about the church.”
“They can eavesdrop, if you will, through Catholic radio and learn a great deal about the church,” said the archbishop. “Even if they don’t become Catholic, [Catholic radio] dispels a lot of myths non-Catholics have about the church.”