The Interfaith Broadcasting Commission is a cooperative venture of America’s Abrahamic faith communities – a broad coalition of Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians, Jewish and Muslim organizations — in partnership with the ABC, CBS and NBC television networks and their affiliated stations in every part of the nation.
This partnership is rooted in relationships as old as the broadcast industry itself, dating from an era when the networks produced weekly public affairs programs in collaboration with national Jewish and Christian communities. Today, for the NBC and ABC networks, the IBC faith groups originate the programs, the networks distribute them, and the local affiliates offer them to viewers across the country. For the CBS network, the IBC is one of the faith-based groups that offer ideas and suggestions to CBS Religion & Culture producers.
IBC’s high quality programming, offered four to six times a year on ABC and NBC, brings to the broadcast industry and the general public, thoughtful, original content that heightens the awareness of and appreciation for the many ways that religious faith plays a positive role in American life.
The IBC television documentaries and liturgical programs not only inspire individuals to explore ways in which faith can enrich their lives, but also offer a positive and unique contribution to the quality and values of the nation’s television programming. After more than 30 years of partnership, IBC and the broadcast industry continue to enliven the discussion and expression of religious faith for a new generations of viewers.
IBC and the Networks
In 1980, ABC was airing a weekly half-hour series called Directions, at 12:30 pm Sundays on the network. Individual programs were produced in cooperation with individual faith groups and organizations: The Jewish Theological Seminary, the National Council of Churches, the Southern Baptist Radio & TV Commission, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, with only a few interfaith programs being offered. ABC would also utilize other, smaller faith groups for a limited proportion of this series. ABC also produced three liturgical specials during the year.
In 1984 ABC discontinued its religious production unit, and in January, 1985, it began producing one-hour specials through its Special Events Unit (four such specials were produced in 1985-86), with all four faith groups cooperating in each special.
Then, in 1986, following a direction that NBC had taken a year earlier, ABC proposed to its cooperating faith group partners, that they assume the responsibility for producing programs that would be distributed by ABC. The first program produced and aired on the network under this arrangement was in June, 1988, under the series title, Visions and Values.
At the same time, ABC said that it would no longer produce the liturgical specials, although it would offer network air time and a feed for programs produced by the IBC faith groups for two liturgical specials a year (Easter, Christmas Eve). This pattern of providing liturgical specials has continued.
Members of the IBC have worked with CBS on various religious programming projects since 1952, beginning with the distinguished network program series, Look Up and Live, Lamp Unto My Feet, and For Our Times. Since 1989 the IBC has worked with Executive Producer Jack Blessington and his team of CBS writers and producers in the production of four half-hour programs each year in the network’s Religion and Cultures series.
Beginning in 1950, NBC had produced and offered to its affiliates, programs related to the four major faith groups in America in order to fulfill, in part, its public service responsibilities. In 1985 NBC (represented by Merryle S. Rukeyser and Betty Hudson) asked these four faith groups, which were then represented by the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission, to meet.
At that meeting, NBC informed the faith groups that it was disbanding its religion production unit, although it would continue to produce liturgical specials through Special Events. In place of NBC production of religious (documentary-style) programs, NBC proposed funding for two years to do program productions which would air on the NBC network. After discussions, it was understood that these monies would fund four one-hour specials per year (one each produced by each faith group). Moreover, the four programs would air in a close-enough time proximity so that they could be seen by affiliates as a series.
Programs were produced and aired on NBC beginning in 1988 under the series title, The Promise of America, which was used again in 1989. Beginning in 1990 and continuing to date, the series title has been Horizons of the Spirit.
However, funding for program production and promotion was reduced in subsequent years and eliminated altogether by 1992, although NBC would continue to feed IBC programs to affiliates via satellite.
Moreover, in 1992 NBC News, which had continued to produce liturgical specials (Passover, Easter, Christmas Eve Mass from Rome, and Christmas Day), informed the IBC that it would no longer produce these specials (except for the Christmas Eve Mass) though it would accept programs produced by IBC members for these holy days and distribute them to affiliates. In early 1996 the IBC was informed that NBC would consider the Easter (or Passover) special to be a network program, beginning in 1997.
Throughout this process, the IBC has continued its commitment to provide the highest quality of programs to NBC stations — a commitment which the IBC re-affirms as it continues to work with faith groups in producing both documentary and liturgical programming.
In existence since 1980, the IBC is committed to providing outstanding television network programs with quality religious content for the three major television networks in the United States — ABC, CBS, NBC. Individually, faith group members of the IBC have been involved with these networks since 1951 (NBC), 1952 (CBS), and 1960 (ABC) — offering more than 50 years of programs that touch the lives of viewers. Regarded as a primary source for faith-based network programs, the IBC represents mainstream religion in our society, affirms the integrity of each other’s faith perspective, and helps television in particular and mass media in general to exercise their societal and public service responsibilities.
Board of Directors
Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, President
Dr. Debra Gonsher Vinik, Secretary/Treasurer
Rev. A.R. Bernard
Imam Khalid Latif