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Holy Smoke and Mirrors
September 28, 2010  | By Tom Brinkmoeller

I can't figure this one out. A recent CBS news release announced the network was planning to broadcast a weekend daytime religious program called Faith in Action: Young People Making a Difference. (New York's WCBS/2 airs it this Saturday at 1 p.m. ET. Check local listings in other areas.)


I didn't know such things still were being made. I remembered there used to be a lot of Sunday morning religious programs. Lamp Unto My Feet (1948-79) and Look Up and Live (1954-79) presented faith-based drama, music and readings on CBS weekly for decades. NBC did a couple I vaguely remember: Frontiers of Faith (1951-70) and The Eternal Light (1952-1989; that's Gene Wilder in the episode photo at right). But as a boomer child back then, my priority was cartoon viewing.

I thought all of the network-level religious shows went away when the Federal Communications Commission deemphasized its requirement that stations document a set percentage of their programming "in the public interest, convenience and necessity." That was the start of the broadcasters' "who cares if it isn't required?" era. Shows of that ilk went off the air, I had assumed, about the same time Red Skelton, Garry Moore and the Cartwrights of Bonanza made their exits.

So I called CBS to ask more about this upcoming anachronism, Faith in Action: Young People Making a Difference. I learned it is one of four multifaith religious programs CBS presents each year. I was given contact information for the man who produces these shows, but he turned down my interview request. A request to speak with the person who oversees this effort also was turned down.

Then I started checking at the station level. I learned that many CBS affiliates don't carry the programs because CBS won't let any advertising be sold within them.

"It's no secret that last year was a terrible one for TV ad revenue," said an executive at a CBS affiliate, who asked not to be named. "We need to carry shows that we can sell."

So here's what we have: A network still produces a brand of public-service programming that seemingly feel into extinction decades ago. Many of the stations that have agreed to carry the abominable S#*! My Dad Says won't carry that public-service programming because it doesn't make money. CBS won't talk about why it continues to produce this throwback to a simpler era that explores the place of faith in society today.

Are network officials ashamed? Or does anyone in power there even know the shows exist?

Perhaps with help from outside, this little mystery can be solved. If any of you readers know what's up with CBS in this matter, share a comment.

Until someone with info comes forward, the mystery of why CBS keeps its still-lighted lamp under a basket remains unsolved.

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