THE Christian Science Board of Directors yesterday announced that serious negotiations for the sale of The Monitor Channel will continue up to April 15. If a new buyer is not found the channel will be closed by that date.
The Monitor Channel is the church's award-winning nationwide cable television network.
The other publishing and broadcasting activities currently operated by The First Church of Christ, Scientist, will continue. These include its newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor, World Monitor magazine, public radio, and an international shortwave radio network, as well as the church's religious publications.
The church's ability to meet current financial obligations and future commitments continues uninterrupted, the directors said.
If no suitable buyer can be found, The Monitor Channel's closing will occur two months ahead of a previously announced June 15 date for shutting the service down. The earlier announcement had been made on March 9.
Board chairman Virginia S. Harris stated: "Attempts to sell the channel or to find substantial investors are being pursued vigorously, including extensive consultation in recent weeks with key management personnel, with in-house and outside legal counsel, and with recognized financial and broadcast professionals."
Mrs. Harris said, "The March 9 announcement to sell the channel has prompted many letters and calls of support from viewers, who expressed appreciation for the high standards of broadcast journalism and who clearly want the channel to stay on the air."
The church will continue with more-limited TV activities, the scope of which will be determined in coming weeks, said Al M. Carnesciali, manager of the Christian Science Publishing Society and a director on the five-member church board. In addition to the cable operation, which was launched May 1, 1991, the church also owns WQTV, a Boston and New England broadcast channel.
"The organization has gained considerable experience in broadcast journalism in the past seven years," Mr. Carnesciali said. "The initial television offering, Monitor Reports, was a monthly half-hour documentary. It first aired in 1985. This was followed in September 1988 with the Emmy-winning World Monitor broadcast, a half-hour nightly international news program, launched on the Discovery Channel."
The Monitor Channel was well on the way to its May 1 target of 5 million households carrying the cable service or its World Monitor news program, the directors said. "The experience gained will continue to provide significant benefits both to the church organization and to society," the board said.
While closing the cable network at this time, the directors noted their deep commitment to strengthening the church's other publishing and broadcasting activities.
The Christian Science Monitor, established by Mary Baker Eddy in 1908, currently has approximately 115,000 subscribers, with a readership of 350,000 in almost 150 countries. World Monitor magazine has a subscriber base of some 250,000, with 800,000 readers. The church's public-radio broadcasts are heard by a cumulative audience of 1.5 million listeners weekly; the shortwave radio network reaches some 11.5 million listeners each week.
Carnesciali stated: "The Christian Science Monitor's mission to bless mankind is so interwoven with the Church's mission as a whole that the Board of Directors has always been, and continues to be, determined to see its preservation, promotion, and extension.
"The Church's television and radio operations are a direct and specific effort to extend the Monitor's original founding purpose. We are deeply grateful for the devotion and dedication of all those who have contributed so much to this tremendous endeavor."
Some of the television personnel will bring their expertise to the radio news operation.
A financial review and outlook for the church's activities will be presented at the June 8 annual meeting of members of The Mother Church, in Boston, the directors said.