Will the NRB Survive?

A few days ago I attended the National Religious Broadcasters Convention. (Before I continue, let me repeat what I have said before: the public policy work that the NRB does is invaluable to Christian communicators and supporters of free speech in America. That alone is worth the membership fees.) This year’s convention was very different for me. As the serving Chair of the Church Media Committee, I was an ex-officio board member, and had to go to several extra meetings I normally did not attend. One of those was the board meeting, where I sat in a room with some of the pioneers of Christian broadcasting. As I looked around the room a couple of thoughts ran through my head. As I realized I was the youngest person in the room I wondered, “Who are the next generation of leaders in Christian communication? And why aren’t any of them here?”

Now, these people are smart and driven. And they have truly done and continue to do, eternally significant work. But the NRB, like many organizations of it’s age, is a bit of a good old boys club. And for several years it has been declining. There are several reasons for that, but the outcome is the same. The NRB is dying just like Christian TV. Two years ago I actually went to my Church Media Committee meeting to resign, and not look back.

But in that meeting I learned that the NRB was making some pretty major changes to the convention program. So, not only did I stay on, but I ended up serving as the chair of the committee. And we spent the first part of the year talking about what we would like to see changed. And were pleased to see many of our ideas were heard.

I’d love to say that every change worked, but not everything did. I’m sure we will be tweaking. I handed off the chairmanship of the committee, but will still be working on it. I hope things improve.

My fear is that the perception of NRB will continue to be that it is an association for older broadcasters who like to dress in three suits. There are a few people that dress down, or wear jeans with their sport jackets and such. I was proud to wear my name badge with the extra flags on the bottom, especially the Board of Directors one, with jeans and an untucked shirt. Not just because I had a bit of rebellion in my heart about the general dress of attendees, but because I wanted younger people to see that there are a few people on the board that are not from the same mold. The same mold is what we need to keep changing.

I have written before about the future of religious broadcasting. I strongly believe that it must change or it will die off. I believe that the NRB can and will continue to shift toward the future and continue to be an association worthy of membership. It’s a lot like turning a large ship with a small rudder. I just hope we can get on the right course before we sink.

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The Decline of Christian TV- The Future of Christian TV

I attended the annual convention of the National Religious Broadcasters this past week. Before I continue, let me say that the public policy work that the NRB does is invaluable to Christian communicators and supporters of free speech in America. That alone is worth the membership fees.

But, much of what I have been seeing from Christian broadcasters is not forward thinking. I want to preface this by saying that I think traditional Christian broadcasting still has a place. It’s not dead, but it is literally dying. I give it 10-20 years.

Much of Christian broadcasting funding is accomplished by the model of paid time/donors. Stations sell 30-minute or 1-hour blocks of time to programmers. Programmers ask for money from donors. Donors come from the audience.

My own research and what I’ve read indicates that the audience for the traditional, sermon-based, teaching program is growing older with every year. The last time I pulled the numbers only 35% of the tens of thousands of people who watch the First Orlando TV program are under the age of 50. Many are over 70. Our program is not the exception, it’s the rule. The donor base for the current model of Christian broadcasting is shrinking as the audience is dying.

The research I’ve seen indicates that younger people generally do not consume religious programming. Definitely not at the rate of those over 50, and they do not support it financially like those over 50. The model for Christian broadcasting has to change.

If you read my blog regularly you know I’m developing a Christian sitcom. During the convention I was on the floor and I was talking about my show idea, and one response I got was, “Wow, that’s bold!”

I didn’t say this, but the thought went through head: This shouldn’t be bold. This should be normal. Christians should be developing more sitcoms and dramas, they should be developing episodic content and reality shows.

I know I’ve repeated this quote before, but it bears repeating again, Mark Ramsey asked in a keynote during the 2011 NRB convention, “Are you putting content online in a way that people want, or in a way that is convenient for you?” We can go farther and ask if we are creating content in a way people want, or that’s convenient for us?

18-34 year olds do not watch religious content. They watch episodic content. They prefer contest-reality shows and comedies. What makes anyone think that as these people age they will suddenly start liking worship services on TV? Or religious interview shows?

We produce worship services for TV because it is easy. My church cranks out two shows a week. It’s simpler to bring on a guest and ask them questions than to write a script, cast it, shoot it, and edit it.

But if we want Christian broadcasting to continue, we must change. And we cannot wait until the current model completely fails, we need to start developing different kinds of programming now. That is the future of Christian TV.

My New DSLR, the Canon 60D

I know the 60D isn’t really new. I have recently been searching for a new video capable DSLR. I had planned to bide my time, but frankly I found a good deal and couldn’t pass it up. I had sold my Pentax DSLR and lenses, and a few other odds and ends. I had the cash on hand, and saw a deal. I had planned at the very least to wait until a new body came out, which should in turn drive prices down on older bodies.

I settled on a Canon 60D. Not because it’s the best video DSLR ever made, but it fits my needs. It has full function video capture, and takes great pictures. And it’s available for under $1000. Since this is my personal camera, video is important, but it is also the one I’m going to be capturing family memories on.

I had been considering the Panasonic GH2, which is an incredible video camera. There are tons of advantages to it. But it finally came down to comfort with the Canon bodies (we use them at work) and access to great lenses to borrow (most of my friends shoot Canon), and comfort with still image quality from Canon. There is no store locally that carries the GH2, so I could not look at it in person. The ability to adapt all sorts of lenses to the body is great, but you do lose the auto functions. Bottom line, it would be a risk to buy it. I was able to find a 60D with some great accessories for less.

I bought a used 60D with a Canon Grip, an EF-S focusing screen and an extra battery for less than the GH2 body costs. I’m pretty excited about it.

Of course, now I’m facing the reality of Canon lens costs. I will definitely be collecting some primes. I don’t see myself dropping a grand on a zoom lens any time soon. But a “nifty fifty” is a definite. Probably an EF 28mm f2.8 as well. After that we will see. I can tell I’m going to miss throwing a $20 at an old manual lens like you can with Pentax.

Streaming the Game

This year for the first time ever the Superbowl was officially streamed by the network broadcasting it. You could watch the stream from any computer, iPad, or Verizon iPhone. The stream showcased multiple camera angles and it’s own set of advertisements.

This may not seem like that big of a deal, but it sort of is.

A major sporting event was available online, complete with ad revenue and bonus content at the same time as the live broadcast of the event. I’m interested to know how many people streamed it, and how it was received. If this was successful, we will continue to see broader streaming offerings from the networks. It’s easy to start with a game the this, since the audience is so large. You could do the same thing with the Oscars. This was just one broadcast, but more will follow.

Geeking Out vs. Creating

I’ve been looking for a new mid level HDSLR. So I’ve been reading the internet a lot. There’s a lot to read.

One thing that strikes me is that there are tons and tons of videos available on Vimeo and Youtube that compare the features of one video capable DSLR to another, but there are not that many simply creative videos that tell a story. Do a search on either site for any major HDSLR and you can see all the video reviews you want. But there are far fewer stories for your viewing pleasure.

It’s easy to geek out on tech specs, and shoot test videos. I’ve done it, I’ve enjoyed it. But it is much harder to carry a creative idea to completion.

My challenge to anyone reading this is to not get tied up in the technical so much. Learn to use your tools. Make them do what you need them to do. But move past the tech to using those told to create.

Don’t just Geek Out. Tell your story.

It Figures

Right after I sell my Pentax gear they announce the new K-01 mirrorless body, compatible with all K Mount lenses. Oh, and it has the most advanced video capability of all Pentax cameras. Supposedly complete manual control of shutter and aperture. Full HD 1080p at 30/25/24 fps and 720p at 50/50/30/25/24 fps. Price listed at $750 for the body.

Now, there’s not really anything earth shattering about those specs. The Panasonic GH2 is similar. But this is a major step forward for Pentax. If the sensor, very similar to the one in the K5, has the same handling of dynamic range and image quality, it could produce some very nice images.

The K-01 doesn’t have a viewfinder, which is a drawback for a lot of traditional SLR shooters, but for video it’s not really a problem.

It looks likes a great body at a great price, especially if you have an investment in K Mount lenses. For me, even if I had kept my K Mounts I would not be able to afford to make the switch. So, I’m still where I need to be; ready to purchase amid-level HDSLR. I’m waiting a little while for any more announcements to come along.