Catholic television expands in Canada

Salt + Light Television, Canada’s Catholic television network, announced yesterday that it has expanded its services to Quebec – the province with the largest number of Catholics in the country.

Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, archbishop of Montreal, joined the Salt + Light team for the launch, held at the diocesan centre.

Salt + Light is being carried on the province’s largest cable provider, Videotron. To promote the launch, Videotron has decided to offer Salt + Light free to its digital TV (Illico) subscribers on Channel 242 until June 1. After June 1, subscriptions will cost $2.99 and will include EWTN, the United States Catholic network.

“I’m aware that we are not revolutionizing television in Quebec,” said Cardinal Turcotte at the press conference. “But this network is important in our milieu. It is the voice of the Church and mostly it is the voice of a young Church, which is not usually heard,” said the cardinal, referring to the fact that the fledgling network is staffed mostly by youth.

The network, which grew out of World Youth Day 2002, is based in Toronto. It began broadcasting in the Toronto-area in July 2003 on ROGERS digital TV.

With more than 12,000 subscribers to date, Salt + Light expects to continue its expansion across Canada. The network’s CEO, Fr. Thomas Rosica, hopes to finalize a deal with another digital TV provider, Bell ExpressVu, shortly.

Currently, most of the programming is in English, but the network plans to have entirely French programming in Quebec in less than 18 months.

Fr. Rosica assured that English programming would still be available to English-speaking Catholics in the majority French province. He stated that Videotron is working on adding another signal to carry the network’s regular English-language programming.

The Basilian priest, who had served as CEO of World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto, is hopeful that Catholic television in Quebec will be an effective evangelization tool. For the last 30 years, the Quebec Church has suffered a significant number of parish closures and a drastic decline in vocations and church attendance. About 84 per cent of the population identifies itself as Catholic, but very few – less than 15 per cent – are regular churchgoers.

The network broadcasts seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and is commercial-free. Some of its programs include: Living Proof, which features lay people who live their faith in an exceptional way; Vox Clara, which features interviews with Church leaders, and Cooking with Saints, a cooking program, featuring recipes for dishes linked to particular saints or saints’ feast days.

The network was conceived and is fully funded by the Gagliano family. The Gaglianos own Toronto-based St. Joseph Corporation, which is the largest privately owned communications and publications firm in Canada.

St. Joseph Corporation began as a small letterpress shop in Gaetano Gagliano’s basement in 1956. Gagliano, now 87, had emigrated from Italy a few years before. The father of 10 was a friend of Giacomo Alberione, founder of several congregations, including the Society of St. Paul and the Daughters of St. Paul, whose charism is evangelization through media. Giacomo Alberione was beatified in April 2003.

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