Mark Ward Sr., a University of Houston-Victoria associate professor of communication, will receive a national award in November for the outstanding scholarly article of the year in religious communication from the Religious Communication Association.

The association will present the honor at its annual convention Nov. 13-17 in Baltimore. The award-winning article, “A New Kind of Church: The Religious Media Conglomerate as a ‘Denomination,’” was published during the spring in the Journal of Media and Religion.

“This is a prestigious award, and UHV is proud to see a member of its faculty receive such national recognition,” said Jeffrey Di Leo, dean of the UHV School of Arts and Sciences. “Mark Ward has produced compelling research throughout his career, and this is a welcome acknowledgement of his dedication and hard work.”

A leading scholar on popular religious media and culture, Ward has published four books on the subject, plus numerous scholarly articles, and has been quoted in the national media. His work previously has received national recognition. In 2018, he was the recipient of the UHV Research and Scholarly Activity Excellence Award.

“My research article takes a trend that’s happening in the media industries – namely the growth of huge media companies that control large swaths of the market – and applies it to the religious media that are used every day by tens of millions of Americans,” Ward said.

These companies own or supply programming for hundreds of local stations. They dominate religious radio and television as well as other forms of communication, he said.

“They also have acquired print media and, in turn, now repackage all their media content, electronic and print, for distribution through mobile apps and other on-demand digital media,” Ward said. “Size pays in the media industry because while it costs a lot to produce content, it only costs a little to expand distribution.”

Clergy can go to a religious media conglomerate for sermon outlines and PowerPoints, youth ministers for children’s videos, worship leaders for song tracks and overheads and staff for church supplies. They can subscribe to clergy professional journals and use the conglomerate’s online job search services.

Members of the public not only consume religious radio, television and websites, they can also access the conglomerate to stream their favorite daily religious programs, talk shows and music artists on demand; purchase inspirational books and download songs; subscribe to popular religious magazines, email newsletters and podcasts; sign up for daily devotional and Bible study apps; and even buy wellness products and financial planning services.

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