WASHINGTON (CNS) — Salt+Light TV, the Toronto-based Catholic television programmer, is using the Internet to send its Chinese-language programming to mainland China.
And, unlike some of the North American giants of online services, Salt+Light’s programming is not getting blocked by Chinese censors.
“We have never experienced any government intervention from China. We have done our work quietly and have never tried to do things illegally,” said Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, Salt+Light’s CEO.
Salt+Light has produced programming in Cantonese and Mandarin for eight years, but only recently did it try to make an inroad in the world’s most populous nation.
“Our first goal was to reach out to Chinese Catholics in Canada,” said Father Rosica, who answered questions June 19 posed by Catholic News Service in an email as he was flying to Denver for the Catholic Media Conference.
“Little by little, several other networks in the U.S.A. started broadcasting our Chinese programs. It is a real blessing for us that in our 10th year, we have been able to penetrate China!”
Chinese-language programming makes up about 5 percent of Salt+Light’s overall production. Most of it — newscasts, documentaries, Canadian Chinese Catholic programs — is produced in Canada. Salt+Light also has a partnership with the Hong Kong Catholic Audio Visual Center and acquires programs from it. Some of the Hong Kong material focuses on Catholics on the Chinese mainland.
Father Rosica said he had “never any trepidation” about the Chinese service. “But we never imagined that our programming produced in Canada would make its way so quickly into China,” he told CNS. “We began noticing this two years ago during Holy Week and our transmission and commentary of the Vatican ceremonies. We received word from lay catechists in China that they were using our feed and broadcasting it to large audiences in several Chinese provinces.”
Based on the reception so far, “we are planning more Chinese-language programs to address the needs from Chinese in Canada as well as around the world, including those who are in China,” Father Rosica said. “We are producing regular programming on current events of the church as well as topical special programs. Two examples of topical program is our production on the election of Pope Francis entirely in Chinese this year and the ordination of Bishop Daqin Ma of the Diocese of Shanghai in 2012.”
“Our goal is to produce more of these programs as well as introducing S+L English programs to Chinese audience. There is a huge demand from Chinese Catholics around the world for good Catholic TV content.”
On a practical level, Father Rosica told CNS, “We have learned that Chinese Catholics, particularly those who are in China, have tremendous love of the Holy Father and are eager to know more about the happenings at the Vatican and the church around the world,” and he added he believes this to be the case with Catholics worldwide “regardless of ethnicity.”
Father Rosica said the China experience gives Salt+Light insights on possible future programming ventures.
“The most important aspect is to make the universal message of Christ’s salvation relevant in the cultural context that people can relate,” he said, adding he would like to explore a Spanish service next.
“What is required is a concerted effort on the part of Hispanic Catholics across the country to provide funding for such programming,” Father Rosica said. “Many have expressed a desire for Hispanic programming. Now we need the funds.”