By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — RTE’s longest running TV item — the Angelus — is getting a facelift for the first time in 38 years with the bell remaining but a new visual image designed to go with it.
The change comes as RTE is facing competition for the first time from the new TV3 channel, which doesn’t carry the Angelus.
There had been rumors that the tolling bell and pause for prayer it signified could be axed.
There were fears that at 6 p.m. couch potatoes might zap their remote controls to change from the static image of an icon on RTE One to one of TV3’s flagship programs, the start of the main early evening news.
Fr. Dermod McCarthy, editor of religious programs on RTE, said that in future the toll of the bell will be accompanied by moving images of the steeples and bell towers of Ireland while people of "varying gender and ages" will pause for prayer.
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"I have always felt that a static image is not the best television," McCarthy said. "Television is about moving pictures."
He said TV3 was an element in the decision but the changes had been considered for some time.
"If people are faced with a choice between moving pictures and a news bulletin at the dot of 6 and a static image of a painting or an icon, well the temptation is very high to use the zapper and go away from RTE."
To try to maintain interest, the pictures will vary with the seasons.
He said the new version was the televisual image of the painting by Millais that depicts a farm couple pausing from their work as a distant church bell peals out across the fields.
"It’s a moment to stop, turn away from what you are doing and pray at the sound of the bell," he said, adding that he expects the famous toll to be ringing out on RTE for a lot longer than the next 38 years.