Salt and Light finds room to stretch
By Michael Swan
The Catholic Register
Photo caption: Fr. Thomas Rosica, CEO of the Salt and Light Media Foundation, stands in the new headquarters of the Catholic broadcaster in midtown Toronto. Salt + Light has almost tripled its space with the move. (Photo by Michael Swan)
Broadcasting is big business in Canada, to the tune of $17.3 billion in 2014 revenues.
But for the one priest and 36 lay people who mount Canada’s premier Catholic broadcasting enterprise, it’s something entirely different.
“There’s nobody here with a puffed-up sense of what broadcasting is. This is a mission,” says Salt and Light Media Foundation CEO Fr. Thomas Rosica. “There’s not one person here who doesn’t have a mission at heart.”
It has been 14 years since the tiny digital television service launched on a shoestring in the afterglow of Toronto’s 2002 World Youth Day.
For 2017, the TV station which strives “to give the flavour of the Gospel and the light of Christ to a world that is steeped in darkness and tastelessness at times” has acquired the tools and the space to do the job.
On Dec. 9, Salt + Light moved from its century-old building at the corner of Richmond and Jarvis in Toronto to new space at Davisville and Mt. Pleasant in mid-town. The broadcaster has added a real studio – a broadcast theatre big enough to stage event broadcasts – and nearly tripled its floor space to 22,000 square feet (2,044 square metres) from 8,500 square feet (790 square metres).
The modern but far from new building has such advantages as a low likelihood of floods (Salt + Light almost lost its master control room to flooding last year), a newer power grid (annoying blackouts are a problem downtown) and solid, vibration-proof concrete.
In the old studios, with century-old hardwood floors and exposed brick, camera tripods had to be secured with sandbags to reduce vibrations from passing trucks on Richmond Street.
The new studio space is only part of a trajectory that has seen the not-for-profit broadcaster leap to the forefront of Catholic broadcasting.
Salt + Light produces programming in English, French, Italian and Chinese, and its work is available on seven different platforms — television, radio, a blog, Internet TV, a Roku channel, social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) as well as a monthly magazine.
The Toronto broadcast centre is supplemented with French-language operations based in Montreal.
The next frontier is New York. Salt + Light and the Archdiocese of New York are in talks about a permanent Salt + Light presence at the new Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, named in honour of former New York Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.
Nothing about Father Rosica’s training as a Basilian priest, including years spent at the École Biblique in Jerusalem, prepared him for life as a broadcasting executive.
“I consider my role to have been sort of a talent scout, a coach, and bringing people on board,” he told The Catholic Register.
What he brings most is a lively faith in doing whatever is possible as well as possible.
“The Catholic community and the non-Catholic community – they deserve excellence,” Father Rosica said. “They deserve authentic reporting, truthful reporting. They don’t deserve filth. They don’t deserve the bombastic stuff.”
No one ever described Father Rosica as shy, but he takes no credit for Salt + Light’s success.
“I’m a firm believer in divine providence. This had to happen,” he said. “This is the realization of a dream.”