Catholic Network EWTN’s Explosive Growth in Canada
By John-Henry Westen and Terry Vanderheyden
TORONTO, Mar. 16, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) - This year, on August 15, the global Catholic media empire Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) will celebrate its 25th anniversary. When EWTN launched on August 15, 1981, many felt there would be little demand for a Catholic television Network.
Now, 25 years later, it has become the largest religious media network in the world, available in more than 118 million television households in 145 countries and territories.
For years, Canadians only had access to EWTN by shortwave radio thanks to severe restrictions on religious broadcasting by Canada's broadcast regulator, the CRTC. The regulator initially rejected EWTN’s application to broadcast in Canada on the same day it allowed the Playboy channel.
In September of 2001, EWTN finally became available in Canada on Rogers Cable but the arrangement required potential viewers to buy a Rogers digital box and pay the extra monthly fee for the digital cable service on top of the regular monthly cable fee.
Viewers of EWTN also had to endure having the religious channel located by Rogers right next to a porn channel on their channel list.
Despite the challenges, in less than three years EWTN went from 0% to 100% coverage across Canada. EWTN is now available on Canada’s Top 10 cable and satellite companies, including the national satellite communication companies Bell ExpressVu and Star Choice.
In December of 2005, EWTN launched on SIRIUS Satellite Radio in Canada (Channel 160), creating an even greater opportunity for Canadians to receive EWTN 24 hours a day, commercial free.
EWTN has made a niche for itself as a broadcaster of faithful Catholic programming, with a strong emphasis on moral issues such as abortion. For example, EWTN provides extensive coverage of the annual Washington March for Life events and produces a regular program hosted by Priests for Life head Fr. Frank Pavone.
The network’s consistent faithfulness to all Catholic teachings and the priority it often gives to traditional Christian teachings on abortion and other moral issues, rather than liberal “social justice” issues, has not endeared it to many North American bishops.
Some, such as Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, have gone so far as to try to take over EWTN or shut it down. Canada’s bishops have been generally lukewarm and sometimes downright hostile to requests from Canadian Catholics for the bishops help with efforts to promote the network.
EWTN’s inception was not without many struggles as related in thorough detail in Raymond Arroyo's recently published, New York Times best selling book on Mother Angelica and the network. The network was launched by the fearlessly faithful cloistered nun from her monastery in Birmingham, Alabama. Arguing with early benefactors who were nervous about the financial stability of the network, some demanded that Mother operate under a budget.
According to Arroyo, she retorted, “No, a budget is the devil’s handiwork. We live on faith.” The network built on one nun’s faith has subsequently become the world’s largest religious media empire which has obviously been meeting the spiritual and inspiritual needs of its millions of viewers.
See the EWTN website