The Australian Christian Channel is available on every major pay-TV platform in Australia and, in the Sydney metropolitan area, on free-to-air digital, not to mention streamed online. It gives the opportunity to watch at any time of day those American evangelists that usually turn up on the commercial networks in the early morning between the Victoria Principal documentaries and the brekky chat shows. Pride of place in the ACC's nightly prime-time schedule belongs to The 700 Club, which goes to air in the plum spot of 8.30pm Monday to Friday (repeated at 6.30am and 1.30pm next day).
The 700 Club has been hosted for 38 years by a gentleman by the name of Pat Robertson. The very Pat Robertson who sought Republican nomination for the US presidency in 1988. The very Pat Robertson who advocated the killing of Hugo Chavez last year (for which he later apologised).
Now, Robertson has told his viewers that Ariel Sharon's stroke was the work of God, punishment for abandoning the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank. Ha'aretz reports that the Israeli Government has suspended contact with Robertson, who was negotiating with them to build the "Christian Heritage Centre", a theme park to be situated in the Galilee district.
Now I'm not normally an advocate of censorship, but check out these two dot-points from the ACC's principles relating to content standards:
- "Programs should bring life to our viewers and reflect the love of our Father. They should not be critical of others but rather be positive and encouraging."
- "In the event of a Ministry falling into disrepute, the ACC has the right to remove the associated programs from the channel line up."
Is Robertson's flavour of "Christianity" appropriate for Christian television viewers in Australia? Does his rhetoric meet the standards necessary to comply with Australia's new anti-terrorist legislation? Why does the ACC (of whom little information is disclosed on their website) schedule The 700 Club as its only program which airs five days a week - bearing in mind that they provide air time to ministries free of charge and subject to their own approval?
And, more to the point, shouldn't we be applying the same scrutiny to people of extreme Christian viewpoints that our government now expects of all Muslim clerics?
I'll drop the ACC a polite email when I get the chance.