Editor Religious Programmes: Roger Childs

Updated: 02nd October 2017

Opportunities for commissioning Religious Programmes in 2016-17 are certainly limited, but not non-existent.

Worship Outside Broadcasts and the short reflective films for The Angelus have already been commissioned, following competitive tendering.

Other commissioned output must either meet the briefs and scheduling / budgeting requirements of RTÉ One's and RTÉ2's contestable slots or have demonstrable potential to attract third party funding. In either case, commissioned output must broaden and enrich the existing Religious slate, whose main elements are as currently follows:-

Would You Believe? (Ireland's longest-running documentary series covers a broad range of religious and spiritual subjects, using a variety of narrative styles and approaches, from profiles to observational documentaries to investigations.)

The Meaning of Life, with Gay Byrne (one-to-one interviews with a broad range of public figures about the way life shapes, and is shaped by, their beliefs and moral values.)

Worship (weekly Christian Masses and Services, plus Christmas and Easter ceremonies)

Festivals ( marking and exploring a variety of minority faith festivals, plus our annual Christmas Carols programme.)

iWitness (short, nightly reflections that attempt to capture "the spirit of Ireland, one voice and one minute at a time.)

So, what aren't we currently doing, for which independent producers might be able to attract funding from non-RTÉ sources?


On RTÉ One


Most of our in-house output has a contemporary Irish outlook. So, what are the stories and subjects which could add historical context and depth to that? Recent successes in this area include The Radharc Squad, One Million Dubliners and Mary McAleese & The Man Who Saved Europe. The challenge is always to make history seem contemporary, relevant and accessible, without dumbing down. Answer the silent questions in the viewer's mind: "What's in it for me?"

As well as classic documentary, we would welcome other creative and original approaches to the subject: perhaps archive-based or constructed reality formats, which allow audiences to experience, connect with or learn from the past, and to understand what has changed and why.

One-off docs and short series that shed new light on familiar stories or reveal previously hidden stories and situations have worked well for us. Recent output has included On God's Mission, which explored the story and legacy of the Irish Catholic missionary movement; Lifers, which brought that story up to date; A Parting Gift, which made full and compelling use of unique access to Trinity College Dublin's body donation programme; and Guess Who's Dead, which offered a charming and affectionate exploration of Ireland's love affair with death notices.
Now is an interesting time to take stock of the changing position of the Catholic Church in Irish society and beyond. But also, please think beyond Catholicism: from Quakers to Bahais, from the Orange Order to Pagans, we are open to proposals and stories that explain the nature and impact of faith in Ireland in fresh and engaging ways, such as Baz Ashmawy's series Baz, The Lost Muslim. Remember, however, that we are a broadcaster, not a narrowcaster. The four Ts - Treatment, Tone, Talent and Title - should all be geared to engage mainstream, not niche, audience interest in our subjects and stories.

What about the history of ideas? At a time when Science and Religion are trying to decide whether they are opposites or partners, we would welcome proposals that bring that complex and combustible relationship to life on television in ways that engage, inform and entertain a mainstream RTÉ audience.

Also, please look out for significant events and anniversaries - e.g. the 500th anniversary of the birth of Protestantism, in 2017. What other hooks should we not miss?

Whatever the subject, the approach must be both authoritative and entertaining. Religion should not be po-faced. Be clear what you're trying to say and find creative, original and compelling ways to say it.



Think RICE: we need programmes which Reflect, Interrogate, Celebrate and Explain the beliefs, practices and identities of Ireland's minority faith communities through strong, engaging stories and characters. As a guideline, please don't treat minority issues as minority interest issues.

RTÉ is Ireland's broadest church. Again, Baz, The Lost Muslim is a very strong example.

Look for ways in which various religious outlooks offer a different perspective on familiar subjects (education, health, births, marriages, deaths). Don't patronise; don't wear kid gloves. Do respect; do ask hard questions, then think of ways of bringing the answers entertainingly to light.

Also, see commissioning opportunities available under "Regional & Diversity": http://www.rte.ie/commissioning/rteregional_and_diversity.html

When different moral and religious outlooks rub shoulders in a diverse and changing society, there can be conflict, creativity or confusion. Who's right? Who's wrong? And how do we know?

On subjects as diverse as faith schooling, adoption, abortion, fertility treatment, euthanasia, genetics, marriage, sex and sexuality, the environment, climate change, human migration and wealth disparity, there are important ethical and religious debates currently taking place. How best can we bring these to television in ways that inform, challenge and entertain a mainstream audience? And what about the ethical challenges we will face in the future. What are they and how will we meet them?

We particularly welcome ideas that make creative use of formats to engage younger audiences and the "I'm not religious, but I am spiritual" generation in energetic and informed ethical debate.



As well as looking for possible co-production partners, you may wish to look for funding from other sources. Each will have its own funding and commissioning criteria, which must be studied carefully, alongside RTÉ's . Please talk to Roger Childs, Head of RTÉ Religious Programmes before approaching these or other bodies about AFP or co-production projects for RTÉ Religious Programmes.

The BAI Sound & Vision Fund (http://bai.ie/en/broadcasting/funding-development-3/sound-vision-3/ );

Jerusalem Productions (http://www.jerusalemproductions.org.uk/tvguidelines.html) - NB this charitable Trust requires that projects have a mainstream UK broadcaster as well as satisfying their editorial criteria;

The Northern Ireland Screen Irish Language Broadcasting Fund
( http://www.northernirelandscreen.co.uk/categories/7/ilbf.aspx ) and

Ulster Scots Broadcast Fund (http://www.northernirelandscreen.co.uk/categories/95/ulster-scots-broadcast-fund.aspx);

The Simon Cumbers Media Fund (www.simoncumbersmediafund.ie/ );

The Wellcome Trust (http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/Funding/Public-engagement/Funding-schemes/Broadcast-Development-Awards/index.htm);

The Templeton Foundation (http://www.templeton.org/what-we-fund/core-funding-areas/) .

Creative Europe TV Funding ( https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/creative-europe/actions/media/tv-programming_en .kenny



In 2015, Religious Programme featured on RTÉ2 for the first time: Skin Deep, a Reality Bites film that got under the skin of Ireland's tattoo craze, and a commissioned 2-part series, Baz, The Lost Muslim, in which the Emmy- and IFTA-winning presenter, Baz Ashmawy explored the faith into which he was born, but which he has not practised since early childhood. Both had significant impact, because they met the Channel's requirement for compelling content with edge, attitude and intelligence that raises laughs, temperatures, awareness or hackles among our target 15-34 year old audience and beyond.

If you have access to arresting and original stories, voices, situations and subjects relating to the things people do and the stuff they believe to give life meaning, we want to hear from you.

There are still some post-watershed slots that need filling immediately and will TX by the end of this year or the beginning of next:

2x60' - (contestable slot - open to all genres). Cost per hour: €85k (TX: T3 2016 / T1 2017)

10x60' - (contestable slots - open to all genres) Reality Bites: Cost per hour: From €55k (T3 2016 / T1 2017)

Beyond those slots is a second tranche, also post-watershed, for TX in 2017. These are not as pressing and will remain open for the moment on eCommissioning:

6x30' - (contestable slot - open to all genres) Cost per hour: €82k (open deadline) TX T1 2017

6x60' - (contestable slot - open to all genres) Cost per hour: €85k (open deadline) TX T1 2017


NB Only proposals submitted via RTÉ e-commissioning will be considered.


Format Farm

We are always looking for ideas that can be developed or commissioned for Format Farm. For more information on Format Farm please click here


Please note:
The discussion of, or initial interest in, a proposal does not represent a commitment to commission by RTÉ and should not be understood as such.

Commissioning decisions will reflect the quality of proposals received and the scheduling priorities operating at the time. RTÉ's financial position will also be a factor.

Any proposals previously submitted to RTÉ in categories listed here, and which were rejected on a first reading in a previous Round, should not be re-submitted and will not be reconsidered.


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