Channel 4 to air Britain's first Christianity advert

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The Independent Online

Channel 4 is to broadcast Britain's first advertisement for a mainstream Christian movement next week in a move which may herald the arrival of US-style "televangelism" to our screens.

The commercial for the Alpha Course – the 10-week evangelical programme designed to introduce students to Christianity – will be screened during the first commercial break in the popular Channel 4 drama Brothers And Sisters, at about 10.10pm on Wednesday.

The advertisement forms part of a major campaign by the Alpha UK group, which is renowned for its conservative agenda. It espouses a "homosexuality is a sin" doctrine beneath a "happy-clappy" exterior. The advertisement was first seen on the digital channel E4 yesterday morning but showing it on terrestrial television could reach a post-watershed audience of 2 million viewers.

The advertisement will be broadcast 58 times on the digital channels E4 and E4+1 and, from yesterday until next Friday, it will be shown at 2,200 cinemas across the country. It will also be shown on screens in London's double-decker buses and in pubs and bars. Mark Elsdon-Dew, a spokesman for Alpha UK, said: "We step up our advertising every September because that's when we have the most courses running and, as a result, have both the most attendees and the most places to fill. We have not changed our advertising budget for this year at all. We have just cut out billboard advertising in favour of cinema and television screens, which have a much wider reach.'

The 60-second advertisement, produced by Carlton Screen Advertising "at a charitable rate", depicts an adult couple on a conveyor belt from birth to death and ends with the catchphrase: "Is there more to life than this?" The campaign was designed by Alastair Duckworth, a 25-year branding consultant who is also an Alpha UK supporter and lives in Streatham, south London.

Other religious movements – including Scient-ology and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [the Mormons] – have advertised on British screens before but this is the first time a mainstream evangelical Christian movement has used television to attract newcomers.

A spokeswoman for Channel 4 insisted that the Alpha UK advertisement met industry guidelines.

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