MEDIA: It's the Christian CNN (and Pat Robertson is Larry King)

Whether it's God's will or not, it's clear that Pat Robertson and the Christian Broadcasting Network are the answer to the prayers of many Christians. It's also clear that the program is the exact opposite of what many other Americans are seeking in TV viewing, or even religion.

Whether it's God's will or not, it's clear that Pat Robertson and the Christian Broadcasting Network are the answer to the prayers of many Christians. It's also clear that the program is the exact opposite of what many other Americans are seeking in TV viewing, or even religion.

Whether it's God's will or not, it's clear that Pat Robertson and the Christian Broadcasting Network are the answer to the prayers of many Christians. It's also clear that the program is the exact opposite of what many other Americans are seeking in TV viewing, or even religion.



Affirmed feminists, gays and liberals will find the views expressed on The 700 Club antithetical to their beliefs. In fact, even practicing Christians look at the Christian Broadcasting Network and its flagship program and wonder what is lurking behind the the pleasantries. Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, executive director of The Interfaith Alliance, says, 'Many people of faith in the nation are not represented by what happens on the program.' He sees the program trying to make people come 'to (Robertson's) particular view of Christianity.'

But like it or not, The 700 Club is an important communications vehicle that reaches a substantial segment of Americans who often view their lives and concerns as being ignored, caricatured, or even demonized by the mainstream media and competing political forces.

'(Conservative Christians) tend to feel their values are flouted in the mainstream press and the entertainment industry. By watching The 700 Club you get the feeling that your values are OK,' explains University of Oklahoma political science professor Allen Hertzke, author of a book examining the political ambitions of Robertson and Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Stewart Hoover, interim dean of journalism and mass communication at the University of Colorado, contends '700 Club viewers are probably better educated and of higher social status than most people would assume.'

Missy Acosta, media operations manager for Ackermann Public Relations in Knoxville, TN agrees. Acosta says the core audience for the program is conservative Christians, but she believes 'there's also a general audience that tunes in because it has good placement on major broadcast outlets.

I can recall growing up in a pretty liberal Catholic family, but my mother would have The 700 Club on because it came in between two shows she liked to watch.'

Friend and foe alike see Robertson as the driving force behind CBN and The 700 Club. Co-host Terry Meeuwsen, a former Miss America, notes that the Yale Law School educated Robertson brings experience in business and government along with spiritual and political concerns to the program.

But critics note that Robertson is president of The Christian Coalition.

Carol Keys, research director for People for the American Way, an organization formed to counter the religious right, considers The 700 Club a program that 'presents a political point of view more than a religious point of view.'

While news packages present spokespersons on both sides, Keys notes that Robertson and other co-hosts will offer a 'running commentary' on the topic. People with opposing viewpoints on political issues are not live guests.

God's news network

But The 700 Club, notes executive producer Andy Freeman, sees itself as presenting alternatives to the news coverage served up by the networks.

By CBN's account, it devotes more in-depth coverage to issues impacting families and international news than the conventional television networks.

CBN News executive producer Mike Patrick takes particular pride in CBN's role in giving wide exposure to the practice of slavery in the Sudan or the growth of evangelicalism in Cuba.

The modern 700 Club is a program that Hoover describes as a 'show that looks a lot like a Christian CNN broadcast. It gives the viewer the sense that he or she is participating in a large, impressive movement and the viewer gets information regarding the Third World and national politics.' Actually, the program is a cross between a news program and a magazine format in which people will be quite open about their Christian faith.

Co-host Gordon Robertson, Pat's son, issues soft-spoken, beseeching prayer invitations aimed at people disaffected with their lives.

Meeuwsen sees the program's goals to 'share the Gospel and love of Christ with people who have never had it before, as well as to reach practicing Christians, regardless of denomination.'

Testimonies of how Christ has influenced people's lives are a staple of the program. Ask Meeuwsen about the show's conservative take on issues such as abortion or homosexuality and she will say it's not done to hurt, but in the belief that living life by biblical principles is 'a better way'.

So Bold and the Beautiful actress Hunter Tylo will discuss how she turned away from the 'occult' (i.e., eastern religions) and became a devout Christian.

Such stories, point out CBN sports director Michael Rasnick, provide hope and inspiration.

The medical reporting talks about the importance of faith in healing.

CBN health and medical reporter Gailon Totheron is open to stories of natural healing methods as well as the more conventional medical treatments.

He views his reporting on medicine as presenting a balanced view between 'what God gave us as well as the gifts that he gave man to come up with pharmaceuticals.'



A responsive audience

The 700 Club's active viewership makes it a responsive one, so booking a client who is a Christian on the program can be fruitful. 'They clearly reach a very family-oriented audience,' said Mike Russell of Creative Response Concepts, who has placed representatives promoting non-CBN programs such as Seventh Heaven and the family-oriented TV ratings organization, Parents Television Council, on The 700 Club. He has found the the staff to be professional and cooperative.

Acosta suggests that some Christian-oriented business leaders may be missing an opportunity too. Her boss, Cindy McConkey, executive vice president of Ackermann, recounts how earlier this year the PR firm placed on The 700 Club representatives of a company called Alpine, which sells air and water purification systems, to describe the Christian orientation of their company. The interview generated strong interest by people looking to become part of the company's network marketing system.

Freeman emphasizes that guests 'do not necessarily have to be a person who ascribes to all of our religious views. If they have good advice for people, then we have them on.' Thus orthodox Jew Michael Medved appeared on The 700 Club to offer political commentary on the Democratic National Convention.

That inclusiveness is likely to lack appeal to Americans who fail to share The 700 Club's viewpoint on politics or religion. But it's welcomed by plenty of others, and that's precisely why The 700 Club should be on the radar screen of PR professionals.



CONTACT LIST

Christian Broadcasting Network

977 Centerville Turnpike

Virginia Beach, VA 23463-0001

Tel: (757) 226-7000. www.cbn.org



Washington Office

1111 19th St., NW

Washington, D.C. 20036

Tel: (202) 833-2707



Founder and Chairman of the Board/CEO CBN: Pat Robertson President and COO: Michael Little

Executive Producer/The 700 Club: Andy Freeman Senior Producer/The 700 Club:

Brooke Boland

Executive Producer/CBN News: Mike Patrick Washington Bureau Chief/CBN News: Mike Anthony.



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