CUT says that Catholics should unplug their televisions: but if we do, how shall we know what to fight?

The licence fee funds all of the BBC's output, not just the programmes we choose to watch (Clara Molden/PA Wire)

This week I received through the post the summer newsletter of an organisation I had not previously heard of, engagingly called CUT, which stands for Catholics Unplug your Televisions. This immediately put me in mind of a Finnish religious sect which was operational around 30 years ago (I think it no longer exists, presumably because its active members all ended up in jail) who believed that television had come between man and God, by obsessing people to the extent that they could think of nothing else, and certainly not religion: it had despiritualised them. So they used to break into people’s houses, not to steal anything (they were very strict about that) but just to destroy the television set. So you would come down in the morning to a perfectly tidy house (if you had left it that way) except for the wreckage of your TV set.

That’s not quite what CUT is on about. The Finnish cult dates from the early days of television, when people, everyone it seemed, really was entirely and obsessively engrossed by the black and white pictures flickering away on their tiny TVs. CUT is opposed to what actually is to be seen on the television, not the very existence of the thing itself. St Padre Pio, they point out, described the TV as Satan’s Tabernacle. Also (I like this one) St Elizabeth Seton (early 19th century) is said to have had a prophetic vision of the 20th century in which she saw a black box from which Satan would enter people’s homes. That is precisely CUT’s contention: its rather splendid logo shows St Michael the archangel in his classic winged warlike posture, standing with his foot on a prostrate Satan into whom he is about to plunge his spear: the difference is that Satan is shown emerging from a very modern looking (possibly even HD) flat-screen television set.

The point is that CUT says it’s just as much opposed to your having a TV even if you carefully avoid anything morally dubious, and just watch concerts and nature programmes (mind you, if David Attenborough has anything to do with them, even nature programmes can be mostly sex and violence). Because in this country we have to pay the licence to watch anything, just having a functioning TV is what causes the problem, CUT claims: as it argues in the editorial of its summer newsletter:


When TV licence fee paying time comes around do Catholics ever wonder what exactly they are funding? Some will say “Oh, I only watch the news, or sport” with football, cricket, golf, snooker and rugby all being cited as unmissable. And “I do love a good drama like the classic serial” or “I like to watch documentaries”, and “I only watch selected good programmes, like EWTN”. However, in Britain, as in many countries where a licence fee exists, the fee also funds pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia, “politically correct” and often anti-Catholic propaganda. Perhaps saying “I do not watch bad TV” whilst funding it is not really a good excuse. Would you buy poison for other people even though you would never take it yourself? … There can be no doubt that the influence of TV, funded by viewers paying the licence fee, has radically changed society and its laws. Licence fee-funded drama has been used to promote the legalisation, acceptance and normalisation of abortion through emotive plays and soap opera story lines. The BBC is adept at twisting any argument using various TV and radio genres to create a discussion format “with an unmistakeable flow of meaning”.

This is, it will be seen, an entirely and necessarily British movement. In countries where you don’t, by paying a licence, have to fund liberal secular TV like the BBC in order to watch anything, the argument doesn’t work. And even here, objections present themselves, however much sympathy one may have with the objectives of CUT. First, TV’s capacity to produce good, wholesome, even actually holy programming would be wholly undermined if we just withdrew from involvement in the media. The Pope’s idea that we must use the media to fight the good fight would simply be ruled out. And by the way, a propos the Pope – the stunning success of his papal visit to this country was not merely recorded and conveyed by the TV coverage; it was to a large extent actually generated by it. And not paying the licence fee, incidentally, would of course mean we couldn’t legally watch EWTN either.

And how, I wonder, does CUT know about the programmes it has a go at in its newsletter and on its website if it doesn’t watch them? That’s the trouble: in the middle of any war, including the culture wars the Church is continually engaged in, you have to know what the enemy is up to. If you simply switch off, they can do anything, unchallenged.

All the same, I’m glad to know about CUT, whose views on what the BBC is up to I shall keep in touch with. I end with the section in their website giving details of their prayer crusade and how to join it:

Prayer Crusade for July 2011

We ask for prayers upon the demise of the News of the World and for those who will lose their jobs.

We ask Prayer Crusaders to pray that the quality of British journalism will improve.

Not only at News International but also at the Guardian and at the BBC.

Please say a Rosary in reparation

Prayer Crusaders engage in spiritual combat to counter the media, the Cult of Celebrity, and their often bad influence.

If you have a favourite saint please let us know and we will send you a prayer card with your saint on it (or we can allocate a saint that has not been taken).

Ask your saint to intercede before the Holy Trinity for the souls of celebrities who are in the news and whose influence may lead many away from Christ.

Enrolment in the Crusade of Prayer is free.

Contact us at:

St Winefride’s Presbytery
Mynd Close, Shrewsbury, SY2 5RA

For their website, see the link at the top of this page.