FILE - In this May 31, 2015 file photo, Roma Downey, left, and Mark Burnett arrive at the Critics' Choice Television Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif. The TLC network said Thursday, June 11, that it will air their new series, "Answered Prayers," starting next month. It will feature stories of people in life-threatening situations who have experienced moments they regard as divine intervention. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

‘The Bible’ Producers Burnett and Downey to Launch Faith and Family Friendly TV Network

The Bible TV series producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey are teaming up with MGM to launch a new TV network that will be faith- and family-friendly.

Light TV, as the new digital network will be called, will reportedly air on Fox affiliates in a dozen major media markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Orlando, Phoenix, Minneapolis and Charlotte, N.C.

This is a very smart decision for Burnett, Downey and MGM from a financial standpoint. Theatrical release faith and family films, as well as TV specials with decent production quality have found a massive market in the past few years, as the success of Burnett and Downey’s own productions has shown. In addition to The Bible, films such as War Room and God’s Not Dead performed remarkably well at the box office for low budget dramas.

Clearly many Christians, who have been critical of the values and content of much of Hollywood, are eager for media that reflects their values. (I count myself in this crowd; films like Chariots of Fire and Amazing Grace are among my favorites.)

Outside of the obvious monetary gains for Burnett, Downey and MGM, what does this new network mean? Specifically, does this impact culture very much in a pro-faith or pro-family way? Burnett and Downey are not building a conservative network, but as their intended demographic overlaps with the Right, I’m curious to see the reactions of conservatives to this development.

Andrew Breitbart’s observation that “politics is downstream from culture” is repeated so often it’s a cliche. Conservative commentators consistently reiterate the point. (Here is RedState’s Dan McLaughlin doing so, for example.) But what does that really mean for conservative values?

Jonah Goldberg argues that Hollywood doesn’t really influence values that much — in fact, it reacts to changes in culture more than it creates them — that storytelling in America, including in Hollywood, really isn’t that liberal, and that creating a conservative movie industry would be a waste of money.

Again, there is no evidence that Burnett and Downey are interested in influencing culture in a pro-faith or pro-family way, only that they see an underserved market there. But for those interested in restoring faith and family values to a more prominent place in American culture, how much far can Light TV serve that cause, even unintentionally.

I think that Jay Caruso’s advice applies here. (Again, his advice is for conservatives, but I think it applies to faith and family programming too.) His advice: focus first on making good films. He writes:

[S]top focusing on “the message” at the expense of form and execution. I cringe when I see a bad movie or read something poorly written and someone says, “But it has such a great message!” If something is poorly executed, no one is going to care about the message.

Many of the popular faith- and family-friendly shows and movies out there, including ones that have been very successful, have been pretty poor from a production, narrative and acting standpoint, leading to their popularity only among those who already agree with, and are hoping to find, the message and values of said shows and movies. Burnett, Downey and MGM have the resources to buck that trend.

Light TV is likely to be immensely popular and it’s understandable to anyone who thinks that faith and family values have too long been underrepresented in culture will be excited by this news. I just hope the network doesn’t become an echo chamber of bad art.

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J. Cal Davenport

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