The Catholic radio station has been growing slowly but steadily. Information and formation, Catholic teaching of the church and devotion, music and talks. The radio broadcasts in seven languages. We talked with its founder and director, Fr. Emil Blaser.
What is the profile of the radio?
Radio Veritas is an independent Catholic radio station. Not only do we broadcast but also we produce programmes and send them to different community stations around South Africa. We broadcast in seven languages: English, Portuguese, French, Italian, Zulu, Sotho and Tswana. We have a small staff of 12 people and many volunteers who do these programmes. We have music: classical music and a lot of African music. We try to be of inspiration to people. We take care also of the devotional side of peoples’ lives, (we have the rosary a couple of times a day and the Mass at midday), and we take care of teaching: we have programmes on scripture and on theology.
The radio’s main aim is to reach Catholics but not only…
The radio’s main aim is to give more of a Catholic content to our Catholic audience. Most of our listeners are Catholic and they like to have their faith somehow endorsed and strengthened. So our programmes are aimed at that. But, at the same time, we have many non-Catholic listeners – Anglicans, Methodists, Muslims, and so on – who discovered us and listen to us. We have up to 35,000 listeners in the urban area of Johannesburg. But I believe we have many more than that because we are broadcasting also on cable and even on internet. There are people around southern Africa and around the world listening to us.
What is the specific of Catholic information, in a particular way of Radio Veritas?
Many Catholics in South Africa have a very elementary knowledge of their faith. On the other hand, radio is a very powerful means of communication. I believe that around 94% of people in South Africa listen to radio. The strength of radio is that it is used in motorcars, homes, everywhere. We can use it to reach people in many places. I’ve always said we need to start with people where they are and lead them on.
Is the Church’s communication effective to put across her values and points of view in the various circumstances?
The Church should move and accept the challenge of the reality of the situation at the moment. What do we want to say? Until the leaders of the Church realise the power of the media, we’ll never get out there. The People of God are being influenced by the secular media. All this has been having, I think, a negative effect on their faith. People prefer to listen to programmes that stroke them and entertain them. These programmes are pumping worldly values into the minds of people who have less and less appreciation for the Catholic faith and its implications. As Catholic journalists we need to be reaching out to people and conveying to them the Gospel values, the values of Jesus. We need to be talking to people and challenging them, for instance about the value of sharing which is a somewhat foreign concept for many people, because the world is intent on grabbing and accumulating things for itself. What we see are the worldly values: greed, bribery, corruption… Sharing, as we see it in the primitive Church, is exactly the opposite of this. The early Christians would sell their things and bring the money to the Apostles to be distributed among all those who were in need. Sharing is a Gospel value and we need to propagate it. In South Africa, too many are aspiring to becoming great, to have grandeur, to have positions of authority… while the value of Christ is service. I see that radio can play an incredible role in helping people to focus on Gospel values and in making them mindful of the erosive worldly values that are pumped into us all the time.
What is the future of Radio Veritas?
We would like to have our newsroom staffed with six journalists, who speak English, Portuguese and French and to be able to be in touch with the Church and Catholic journalists throughout Africa, so that we can source good news stories because our tag line is ‘The good news. For a change’. We can tag good news stories about things that are happening in Kinshasa, in Nairobi or in any place – and wonderful things are happening all over! We can source these things, broadcast them on radio and make them available to other media, even secular media. Our desire is to have a Catholic radio journalism school along with Radio Veritas. We have realized that there are many budding journalists in South Africa and indeed throughout the continent. But many of them have little or no idea of the Church. And if they are to work in a Catholic environment, they need to have some idea about the Church and its structures, about our Catholic faith and so on. After being trained, these radio journalists will leave and go back to their countries or possibly be employed by us, or elsewhere for that matter, as Catholic radio journalists – having a good knowledge of their faith and a good knowledge of the medium of radio. (J.R.)