WQTV for Sale; Church Sets June 1 Cutoff for Bids on Cable Channel
BOSTON — THE First Church of Christ, Scientist, is expected to announce today that it will sell WQTV, Channel 68, its commercial television station in Boston.
The Christian Science Board of Directors said in a prepared statement that the sale is part of its overall plan for balancing the budget of the church and the Christian Science Publishing Society for the fiscal year that began May 1.
The directors also announced a closing date of June 1 for bids to purchase the Monitor Channel, the church's cable television operation.
The channel currently is broadcasting reruns until June 15, when it will shut down if no buyer is found.
Purchased for $7.5 million in 1986, WQTV served as the laboratory and later the launching pad for church's entry into television news programming. When the Christian Science Church took it over, the station's programming consisted mostly of home-shopping services and old movies. The Christian Science Monitor Syndicate, set up to operate the television station and the church's shortwave-radio facilities, gradually introduced local and national news programs, a weekly religious program, and the daily broad cast of the Christian Science Church's daily Bible Lesson-Sermon. WQTV served as launch pad
In the fall of 1988, the station saw the launch of "World Monitor: A Television Broadcast of The Christian Science Monitor," which also appeared nationally on cable on The Discovery Channel. In the spring of 1989, the channel introduced "Today's Monitor," an hour-long look at articles in the day's Monitor newspaper, and several other current-affairs programs. These programs and others later became the basis of the Monitor Channel, which debuted on cable TV in May 1991.
The Monitor Channel was available to from 4 million to 5 million households in the United States by January of this year, according to church officials. "World Monitor" was also seen on the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service worldwide and on CBC Newsworld cable in Canada. Monitor television programming and personnel won several industry awards, including a national Emmy, several regional Emmys, and awards from the National Academy of Cable Programming and Action for Children's Television.
Despite the recognition, the programming did not attract large audiences. In addition, the channel's growth was hindered by a lack of capacity on cable systems that wanted to carry the programming. These factors made it difficult to attract advertisers. 'Closing in' on budget
The church announced earlier this year that it was selling the Monitor Channel and a satellite transponder used for distributing the service to cable systems around the country.
Church officials estimate that since 1985 the church has spent about $235 million on TV operations. This effort, especially its cost, has become a source of controversy within the church.
The directors have said that the Christian Science Publishing Society's monthly magazine, World Monitor, and Monitor Radio, which is broadcast on public radio in the United States and by shortwave worldwide, will continue, as will its daily newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor.
The directors' latest statement also said that the board is "closing in" on a balanced budget for 1992-93, the details of which will be presented at The Mother Church's annual meeting June 8.
The church has said the budget will total $70 million.