Methodist winner at religious TV Awards

In yesterday's Sandford St. Martin Trust TV Awards held atLambeth Palace Michael Wakelin, a Methodist local preacher in theMacclesfield 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.  Hesaid: "This award belongs to the Songs of Praise Team whoconsistently deliver programmes of such quality, celebrating faithwith great inspirational music and compelling stories."

There was more Methodist involvement at the awards as SirMichael Checkland (below), Past Vice-President of Conference andformer BBC Director-General, chaired the panel of judges. In hisopening speech he drew attention to the recent Communications Act,which weakened the obligation on owners, commissioners andschedulers of the five main networks to provide religiousprogrammes.

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

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

She continued: "I hope that both general audiences, as well asthose with a particular faith perspective, understand the greatwealth of experience, skill and passion that go into the nation'sreligious television output. At a time when people around the worldare struggling to come to terms with the faith experience UKreligious programmes provide invaluable, essential reflection thatwe should not take for granted."

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


- 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 encourageexcellence in religious broadcasting.