06 May 2004

Methodist winner at religious TV Awards

In yesterday's Sandford St. Martin Trust TV Awards held at Lambeth Palace Michael Wakelin, a Methodist local preacher in the Macclesfield circuit, collected the first merit prize on behalf of 'Songs of Praise'.

Mr Wakelin (right), series producer for the hit BBC programme, and a "committed Methodist", was delighted with the award.  He said: "This award belongs to the Songs of Praise Team who consistently deliver programmes of such quality, celebrating faith with great inspirational music and compelling stories."

There was more Methodist involvement at the awards as Sir Michael Checkland (below), Past Vice-President of Conference and former BBC Director-General, chaired the panel of judges. In his opening speech he drew attention to the recent Communications Act, which weakened the obligation on owners, commissioners and schedulers of the five main networks to provide religious programmes.

He urged: "In this world of self regulation viewers in general, and the churches in particular, will need to maintain pressure on the 5 networks and on Ofcom to ensure that religious programmes of quality continue to be commissioned with appropriate investment and are transmitted at accessible times."

Kathleen LaCamera, who has spent half of her professional life as a Methodist minister and journalist in the US, was also a member of the judging panel. She said: "UK television audiences are treated to a broad range of the best religious television in the world. No where else can you consistently find reflection across a broad range of faith experiences and moral/ethical issues than here in the UK on terrestrial television."

She continued: "I hope that both general audiences, as well as those with a particular faith perspective, understand the great wealth of experience, skill and passion that go into the nation's religious television output. At a time when people around the world are struggling to come to terms with the faith experience UK religious programmes provide invaluable, essential reflection that we should not take for granted."

This year's Sandford St. Martin Trust TV Award winner was Episode 6 of Wag TV's 'The Naked Pilgrim', shown on Channel 5, which covered the final miles of Brian Sewell's pilgrimage to Santiago.


- The awards were presented by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, the Tenth Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster.

- The Sandford St Martin Trust was set up in 1978 to encourage excellence in religious broadcasting.

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