‘God slot’: meaning and origin

The colloquial British-English expression God slot, also God Slot, God-slot, etc., denotes a period in a broadcasting schedule regularly reserved for religious programmes.

Here, the noun slot denotes an allotted place in a broadcasting schedule.

The earliest occurrences of the expression God slot that I have found are as follows, in chronological order:

1-: From The TV world of James Pettigrew, published in the Sunday Mirror (London, England) of Sunday 29th March 1970:

AN UNHOLY LOOK AT RELIGION?

Religion and ratings do not go together. Everyone has tried.
The BBC even attempted Sunday programmes heavily larded with sex themes.
Now ATV’s Assistant Production Controller, Francis Essex, is having a shot at breaking the jinx on “the God slot,” with a nine-part series entitled Beyond Belief, using comedy, intimate revue sketches and irreverent jokes. Appropriately, it begins on what the Church calendar calls Low Sunday—April 5.
Essex tells me: “We want to be a little outrageous, but the humour will be witty, not low. There will be a lot of laughs about everything from original sin to racialism.
“We have asked the religious advisers exactly what message they want left in the viewer’s mind, and told them to leave the method to us.”
The end justifying the means?

2-: From The Birmingham Post (Birmingham, Warwickshire, England) of Friday 1st May 1970:

Brickbats and bouquets for ‘Beyond Belief’
By Michael Henfield

“Trivial,” “vulgar,” “disgraceful” . . . just some of the adjectives irate viewers have used to describe ATV’s controversial weekly Beyond Belief religious offering.
Currently filling what the TV planners profanely describe as “The God Slot,” the programme earned the Mary Whitehouse Seal of Disapproval after its first edition and has been picking up brickbats—and bouquets—ever since.
This week the TV men have been threatened with being “cast into the everlasting fire” by a lady from Dorset, who wants the programme taken off as soon as possible. Beyond Belief is scheduled to run for another five editions.
Personally, I find the trendy approach to religion faintly embarrassing, but it’s being watched by a nationwide post-Sunday-tea audience of more than 2,500,000 people.
Producer John Pullen has received quite a few letters from people welcoming this new approach to religion.
Their views will be weighed against those of the protesters when judgement day comes at the end of the series.
Then ATV will decide whether the format of satirical sketches has proved successful.
It may well be that Beyond Belief will continue in its present form for another series or that an element of the “chat” type of show may be introduced. Or the whole thing could disappear for ever, of course.
Mrs. Whitehouse, who made a personal protest to ATV’s chief executive, Sir Lew Grade, after the first show over what she called “an insult to viewers’ intelligence,” appears to have been converted.
She telephoned the studios to say she liked last Sunday’s show. This was run to a slightly different format, in fact, and may prove the most successful of the series.
After the first show Mrs. Whitehouse had said she couldn’t imagine how it could have been approved by ATV’s religious advisers. But pass it they did.
The advisers are the Rev. David MacInnes, Precentor of Birmingham Cathedral, Father Geoffrey Tucker, a priest from Chasetown, and the Rev. Robert Duce, a Nottingham Congregationalist minister. They sit on the script conferences and see recordings being made.
ATV regard the programme as “largely experimental.”
Religious producer Bill Allenby, who has worked on Beyond Belief, said: “The aim is to make people think. We knew it was going to be controversial.
“Through humour we hope to bring home a message each week. Religion is apt to be taken very seriously. But there is fun and joy in it, too.”
Before the first show went out Mr. MacInnes was quoted as naying [sic] it was designed “to get under people’s skins.”
This it certainly has done. A London viewer wrote in this week to add “vulgar” to the vocabulary of criticism aimed at the programme, and the Dorset lady who warned of divine pyrotechnics also accused ATV of “dishonouring God.”
Mr. MacInnes feels it is possible to get over a Christian message in revue form, but concludes that it may offend some people.
He, in fact, has criticisms of the show himself. But not from the same point of view as those who have declared themselves outraged and offended.
“The point is that we are trying to get over a serious Christian message,” he said. “At the moment I don’t think we are succeeding.
“The potential is there, but it needs to be developed. I think the message could be made more clear.”
He says it is difficult to gauge the opinion of his fellow clergymen—“because they’re in church when the programme comes on.”
So far the show has tackled the colour bar, charity, original sin and selling the Church. Themes to come include law and order, heaven and hell, and prayer and worship.

3-: From The Guardian (Manchester, Lancashire, England) of Saturday 3rd July 1971:

SUNDAY TELEVISION

We’ve heard about ratings battles, but this is more a holy war: into the God-slot go Bernard Levin, starting a ten-part probe of the future’s values, discussing medicine with priests, peers and pundits (“The Eighties,” BBC-1, 6 15) and Robert Kee with political Christians, left and right, asking “What side is God on?” (ITV, 6 15).

4-: From The Stage and Television Today (London, England) of Thursday 4th May 1972:

Don’t Feed The Fish
A Play for Sunday, ATV, April 30
by Patrick Campbell

Once upon a time there was a man called Eric who worked at Kew Gardens and thought all tropical plants his enemy because during World War Two he had been lost in the jungle. And Eric is very unhappy because his wife has died and his son and daughter have left home. But Eric has a young colleague called Bill, and Bill has just discovered Christianity and prays that Eric and his family shall be united again, and behold Eric and his family are united again and everyone lives happily ever after.
Something really has got to be done about the “God slot” on Sunday evening before, as Colin Morris foretold recently, television succeeds in killing off Christianity altogether.
The efforts to find some new gimmick to brighten the 70 minutes from 6.15 have become more and more desperate and pathetic, culminating, one had thought and hoped, in the nauseating hypocrisy of Stars on Sunday.
But no. ATV has actually succeeded in making preposterousness more preposterous with A Play for Sunday, as evidenced by this week’s contribution.
“Strange happenings—” (and I quote verbatim from TV Times) “—in a hot hot house in London’s Kew Gardens! Jungle warfare could break out in England’s green and pleasant land.” What could be more calculated to tempt the silent majority of unbelievers?
What, in the event did we see? John Antrobus at his most rantipole, mixing (incredibly) heavy symbolism with A Little Child’s Guide to Christianity, circa 1885. To provide—what? An illustrated homily on the power of prayer so uncomplicated, so naive, that even Radio Four’s A Thought for the Day would blush to acknowledge it.
And if this does not persuade Them that the Sunday night religious period has become so farcical that its abolition is the only reasonable course to take then nothing will.
To their credit Robert Lang as Eric and Jonathan Lyon as young Bill brought their considerable acting skills to bear on a script that could only have been designed as a grand send-up. Carolyn John and Anne Salinger provided the tenuous femine [sic] interest.

5-: From Saturday TV, published in the Evening Standard (London, England) of Saturday 5th August 1972:

London Weekend 1
[…]
11.40 PRIVATE VIEWS: Clive Jenkins. Shifted from its original God-slot time on Sunday recently because the I.T.A. 2 thought the series wasn’t sufficiently religion-orientated.

1 London Weekend Television (LWT) was the ITV network franchise holder for Greater London and the Home Counties at weekends.
2 The Independent Television Authority (ITA) was an agency created by the Television Act 1954 to supervise the creation of Independent Television (ITV), the first commercial television network in the United Kingdom.

6-: From Keir practises what he preaches, by Kenneth Hughes, published in the Daily Mirror (London, England) of Saturday 28th October 1972:

Religious broadcasting has not been quite the same since the Rev. Adam Smith 3 (in the person of actor Andrew Keir 4) walked tall into “the God slot.”
That’s what those pious programmes early on Sunday evenings are called.
If the Devil (or anybody else) has to be wrestled with, Adam Smith is in there pitching. So, it happens, is Andrew Keir.

3 Adam Smith is a British television series produced by Granada Television and originally broadcast on ITV from January 1972 to March 1973.
4 Andrew Keir (Andrew Buggy – 1926-1997) was a Scottish actor.