VISN channel reaches milestone

Avalues-oriented cable television network, known as VISN, which the Church helped launch in September 1988, has now been on the air for more than five years.

And with this milestone comes a new name to eliminate confusion among some viewers and to better reflect the network's purposes.Beginning Jan. 1, VISN, which stands for Vision Interfaith Satellite Network, will be known as "Faith & Values Channel."

While the name VISN "has historic value and has been convenient internally," said Nelson Price, VISN president and chief executive officer, "it has not served the viewer well. We needed a name that is viewer-friendly, a name which clearly says who we are, what we're about and can help viewers find the channel.

"The name change is intended to put the channel in a stronger and more visible position in the coming 500-channel environment where there will be too many choices for viewers to flip through the channels to see what is on."

The Church was one of 12 original charter members of the network, designed to provide uplifting television viewing for people of all faiths nationwide.

In October 1992, the American Christian Television System (ACTS) joined the network, resulting in the creation of the VISN/ACTS Channel. This caused confusion among many viewers looking for the network in newspaper television listings because the network was often listed as either VISN or ACTS, rather than the network's complete name.

Newspapers will now be asked to list the network, which is owned and operated by the non-profit National Interfaith Cable Coalition Inc., in television listings as "F&V."

In an interview with the Church News, Bruce L. Olsen, managing director of the Church's Public Affairs Department, and Arnold R. Augustin, media relations director for Church Public Affairs, talked about the name change and the benefits of the Faiths & Values Channel.

Brother Olsen, secretary to the VISN membership board, emphasized that the Church supports the name change and added, "It's a step forward."

In speaking of the combining of the two cable systems in 1992, he explained that ACTS, formed by the Southern Baptists, brought to VISN 6 million additional households that receive the network.

Today, a consortium of 59 religions, including the LDS Church and Protestant, Jewish, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths, sponsors the network. The system now reaches more than 20 million cable households on more than 1,450 cable systems serving more than 4,600 communities.

"Faith & Values Channel will offer a number of benefits for all people of faith," Brother Olsen said. "At the least, there is some place on television where you can get religious programming from your faith group. That's a tremendous advantage.

"Having this type of network also helps get people away from negative thinking," he explained. "For the last five years, viewers have been able to turn to programming that doesn't protest, doesn't ask for money and doesn't demean other faiths."

In fact, a spirit of cooperation exists between the faith groups that sponsor VISN, explained Brother Augustin. "This is an interfaith relationship," he continued, "but all faiths involved in the network stand up for what they believe."

He emphasized that although Church programs are in accordance with VISN regulations of no proselyting, they still adhere to LDS doctrine and policy.

Brother Olsen explained that many of the programs on VISN help build "bridges of understanding" by educating people as to the beliefs and standards of another faith.

For example, he said, the LDS program, "Families are Forever," which focuses on strengthening families and is hosted by Richard and Linda Eyre, "has allowed people who have seen the Mormon public service announcements to reinforce the understanding of what we offer families."

"LDS Worship Service," Brother Olsen continued, "allows viewers in a non-threatening way to find out what an LDS worship service is like."

The other regularly telecast LDS programs include the "Mormon Tabernacle Choir," also known to viewers as "Music and the Spoken Word"; and "Center Street," which is designed for teenage viewers.

" `Center Street' is a television magazine program where teens find encouragement in pursuing the positive values lacking in the popular media," said Brother Augustin.

In speaking of the beneficial times that VISN runs LDS programs, Brother Olsen said, "VISN officials have been good to us in the placement of our programs - when you think of 59 faith groups competing for times." (Please see accompanying box for listing of days and times of Church-produced programs.)

These "beneficial times" have meant that many people - LDS and non-LDS - can view LDS programming. And the response has been positive, as indicated by viewers who have called the Church's Public Affairs office. Records of those calls are made. One caller from Illinois said: "I just finished watching your show [`Center Street'T for the first time on the VISN cable channel, and I thought it was absolutely excellent. I hope a lot of young people are watching your show because I think you definitely have the right kinds of values and morals."

In speaking of the growth of VISN in its first five years, Brother Olsen said: "It's been gratifying to see how VISN has expanded from the early days of a few hours a day to 24 hours, seven days a week. We've seen dramatic improvements in the quality of programming, as well as the increased good will that has developed between the faith groups."

As an example of this good will, Brother Olsen said Ralph Hardy, president of the Washington DC Stake, has been asked to be a member of the VISN board of trustees. Brother Augustin, who has been involved in producing many LDS programs, is on several VISN committees with other VISN producers.

Brother Olsen offered praise for those involved in getting the Church involved in VISN in 1988, including Elder Richard P. Lindsay of the Seventy, who at the time was managing director of Public Affairs; Beverly Campbell, who was director of Public Affairs in Washington, D.C., and who is now director of International Affairs for the Church; and Tad Williams, who was a Church service missionary for Public Affairs, now retired from a career in media and education.

To help promote the continued growth of what will now be known as Faith & Values Channel, Brother Olsen encouraged viewers to write to local cable systems and thank them for including VISN in their programming - or request it.


Following are days and times of LDS-produced VISN programs, listed according to Eastern Standard Time. Central Standard Time is one hour earlier than EST, Mountain Standard Time, two hours, Pacific Standard Time, three hours.

Center Street

Tuesday 6 p.m. (EST)

Thursday 7:30 a.m. (EST)

Saturday 8 p.m. (EST)

Families Are Forever

Tuesday 1:30 p.m. (EST)

Wednesday 11:30 p.m. (PST only)

Thursday 2:30 a.m. (EST) (no PST)

Friday 7:30 p.m. (EST)

LDS Worship Service

Monday 8 a.m. (EST)

Thursday 2 p.m. (EST)

Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Sunday 4 p.m. (EST)

Thursday 9 a.m. (EST)

Saturday 8:30 p.m. (EST)

A Church-produced Christmas program, "Christmas Carol," will air Dec. 24, 6 a.m., 6 p.m. (EST); and Dec. 26, 2 a.m. (EST).

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