Roman Catholic Engagements with Audio-Visual Media around the World (1928-2001). Exploring and Utilizing the OCIC and UNDA archives.

Roel Vande Winkel's picture
Online Digital Resources
December 31, 2024
Subject Fields: 
Religious Studies and Theology, Journalism and Media Studies, Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Film and Film History

The multi-faceted history and development of the Catholic Church’s engagements with audio-visual mass media (radio, cinema, television and group media) throughout the 20th century is a crucial aspect of the Church’s sometimes ambivalent and complex dealings with modernity. During the first decades of the 20th century, the Church was initially reluctant to address audio-visual media issues and left this field wide open to laic initiatives. This led to the establishmentof a good number of different radio and film organisations. The two largest were the international umbrella organisations OCIC (Office Catholique International du Cinéma) and BCIR (Bureau Catholique International de Radio), both founded in 1928. BCIR became BCIRT (adding a 't' for television) and eventually changed its name to UNDA (Latin for 'wave'). OCIC and UNDA, each featuring member organisations throughout the world, had their international headquarters in Brussels. In 2001, OCIC and UNDA merged to form Signis, the ‘World Catholic Association for Communication’.

In 2006, the archives and libraries of OCIC and UNDA, were deposited in the University of Leuven's Interfaculty Documentation and Research Centre for Religion, Culture and Society (KADOC). These extensive archives are of exceptional international interest but have hardly been studied by scholars. This is partially due to the size of the archives (over 90 meters) and partially to the seemingly unstructured original placement list, which made the archives rather unpractical and unwieldy to work with. The 2018 report opens up the archives and guides researchers through the different funds related to OCIC, BCIR, BCIRT and UNDA.

The report is the tentative end product of the two-year research project ‘OCIC and UNDA from the Research Fund of the KU Leuven: Foundations for longitudinal, comparative and transnational research into Roman Catholic approaches to audio-visual media, 1928-2001’ (project code 3H150291). The report introduces OCIC and UNDA through a short history of both organisations, explores the most important developments during their 73-year existence, and looks into their relations with the Church, organised laity and the broader field of local, national, international, and intergovernmental (media-) organisations. The second part of the report introduces the OCIC-UNDA archives through a short history of the archives’ management and a detailed institutional history of the organisations that shaped them. Taking this into account, the report analyses the structure and content of the archives, evaluating their state of preservation and lacunas. The report also provides an overview of the reference library’s contents with special attention to publications of OCIC, UNDA and their predecessors. There are also a number of relevant primary sources outside the bounds of OCIC and UNDA’s own archival and library collections. The archival collections kept at the Archivio Segreto Vaticano (ASV) and Istituto per la Storia dell’Azione Cattolica e del Movimento cattolico in Italia Paolo VI (ISACEM) which have been explored in the context of this project, as well as the interviews with privileged witnesses conducted at the 2017 Signis International Congress in Québec are also explored in this report. Finally, the reader is presented with an overview of the data entered in the ODIS database for archival contextual information and an annotated bibliography of literature with direct relevance to the history of OCIC and UNDA.

The project was supervised by Prof. Roel Vande Winkel and dr. Leen Engelen. Drs. Lieven Boes opened up the archives. The supervisors are looking for scholars with related research interests, in order to stimulate international research on religious engagements with audio-visual media, past or present.

Roman Catholic Engagements with Audio-Visual Media around the World (1928-2001). Exploring and Utilizing the OCIC and UNDA archives.
Boes, Lieven; Engelen, Leen; Vande Winkel, Roel
KADOC - Institute for Media Studies; Leuven; 2018, 48 p.
ISBN 9789078192398

The report can be downloaded here:

Contact Info: 

Roel Vande Winkel
KU Leuven / Institute for Media Studies (IMS)
Parkstraat 45 - bus 3603; 3000 Leuven; Belgium