The Evangelical Noise Machine

Democrats are now, at long last, starting to distrust the MSM news and turn to what can be deemed "partisan" news sources, such as the blogosphere. However, Republicans and conservatives have been doing this for a much longer period of time, and it is important sometimes to understand just how vast their alternative news empires have become. For example, here is an excerpt from an excellent article in the Columbia Journalism Review about the growing Christian News empire:Christians have been flocking to broadcasting ever since the first radio programs began crackling across the airwaves in the early 1900s. By the 1930s, evangelicals were lobbying for policies that would ensure their dominance in the religious broadcasting realm. Their activism was catalyzed by the fact that early on, the big-three networks donated rather than sold airtime to religious organizations. The Federal Council of Churches, which represented the more liberal mainline denominations, favored this system, which it believed would help keep the religious message from getting corrupted. But evangelicals worried that networks would lavish mainline churches with free airtime while giving their own ministries short shrift. In 1944, they formed the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), and that organization lobbied federal regulators. The strategy worked; the government eventually decided to let religious organizations purchase as much airtime as they could afford. Evangelical preachers were soon flooding the airwaves, while mainline broadcast ministries all but vanished from the radio dial.

In the sixty-one years since its founding, the NRB has grown to represent 1,600 broadcasters with billions of dollars in media holdings and staggering political clout. Its aggressive political maneuverings have helped shape federal policy, further easing the evangelical networks' rapid growth. In 2000, for instance, the Federal Communications Commission issued guidelines that would have barred religious broadcasters from taking over frequencies designated for educational programming. The NRB lobbied Congress to intervene, at one point delivering a petition signed by nearly half a million people. Legislators, in turn, bore down on the FCC, and the agency relented.

At least one mainstream media mogul has taken note of religious broadcasters' political might. In 2002, Rupert Murdoch met with NRB leaders and urged them to oppose a proposed Echostar-DirecTV merger, which they did. After the FCC nixed the deal, Murdoch's News Corporation bought DirecTV and gave the NRB a channel on it.(...)

Despite their growing reach, Christian networks still lag behind many secular heavyweights when it comes to audience size. About a million U.S. households tune in daily to each of the most popular Christian television shows; about twenty times that number watch CBS's top-rated program, CSI. Likewise, Christian radio stations draw about 5 percent market share, on average, while regular news and talk stations attract triple that percentage. But more and more people are tuning into Christian networks. Christian radio's audience, in particular, has climbed 33 percent over the last five years, thanks in large part to the emergence of contemporary Christian music. No other English-language format can boast that kind of growth.

We often blame the MSM for not properly informing the public about the lack of connection between Iraq and the attacks of 9/11, or not properly informing the public about the faulty weapons of mass destruction claim for the war. However, we also need to realize that much of our mass obliviousness to these facts comes from people turning more and more to partisan news sources, including talk radio, the blogosphere, Air America, Faux News and Christian news, that actively work to present information in a manner that conforms, rather than challenges, a particular ideological worldview. We should also expect that this process will only continue to get worse, as all locations for partisan news, both right wing and left wing, are booming. As someone who makes a living by working in partisan news, I am not necessarily claiming this is a bad thing, but I do think that any hope anyone out there might have had of returning a an era of national consensus needs to be abandoned.

Tags: Media (all tags)

Comments

14 Comments

A couple of things
First, has anyone noticed that while driving around in areas like Oklahoma and the Southwest that Christian radio station signals often overlap with NPR broadcasts, thereby screwing up NPR reception?  I have always suspected a conspiracy.

Secondly, when I was a young Southern Baptist, there was an enormous effort by the Church to pressure youth to stop listening to secular music and only listen to Christian music.  That same pressure could be applied to talk/political radio.

by nanoboy 2005-05-02 03:20PM | 0 recs
Re: A couple of things
I am well aware of the phenomenon.

WEPC 88.5, in Belton, SC (a repeater for the Christian broadcasting station in Toccoa Falls College) constantly knocks my favorite station, WNCW 88.7 off the dial. I can get it in my car, but not in my wife's car or at my house.

They put a 50 KW station at the lower end of WNCW's broadcasting area. WNCW would come in quite clearly in Anderson and Greenville if not for WEPC.

At least you can listen online (http://www.wncw.org)

by wayward 2005-05-02 04:31PM | 0 recs
Why Rupert Murdoch is best buddies with the right
One paragraph caught my attention:

At least one mainstream media mogul has taken note of religious broadcasters' political might. In 2002, Rupert Murdoch met with NRB leaders and urged them to oppose a proposed Echostar-DirecTV merger, which they did. After the FCC nixed the deal, Murdoch's News Corporation bought DirecTV and gave the NRB a channel on it.(...)

Rupert Murdoch is not a dedicated right-wing champion by any means. No, he doesn't care for anything but making money. This is a simple quid pro quo that got him DirecTV.

The rank and file of the conservative movement is a bunch of suckers that are getting played by Murdoch and others like him. Ever wonder why the same people who brought you Temptation Island also bring you Fox News?

by wayward 2005-05-02 04:38PM | 0 recs
You cannot go backwards...
... ever.

Life always moves in a forward direction. We cannot capture the past. It will never be the sixties again (thank god), nor the fifties... or any other era. This is true on a large scale as well as on smaller ones.

News as we know it has changed forever. What develops from here is up to all of us to determine.

Politics as we know it has changed forever too. What develops from here is up to all of us to determine.

I believe that our country has changed forever. Our democracy has changed forever.

Where are we going to take ourselves?

by Andrew C White 2005-05-02 07:01PM | 0 recs
Feel The Hate
First off, I highly recommend that everyone read Christopher Hedges article in the latest Harper's.  Its called Feeling the Hate With the National Religious Broadcasters.  Excellent.  Very Scary.

Second, I'm a teacher, and while the right wing partisan media is a big problem, its at least as bad that a huge chunk of the population - at least a third, I'd guess - have their heads in the sand, if not up their asses.

Third, check out this.

by mrcolson 2005-05-02 07:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Feel The Hate
What is particularly scary is how the Dominionists have linked up with the Catholic right.

These traditionally dissimiliar groups have very similar agendas. Dominionists want to create a land governed by Biblical law, the Catholic right wants to create a land governed by "natural law" as understood by the Catholic Church.

The approches and the theology behind each is quite different, but the current goals are identical, and the end result is similar. (Unlike the Dominionists, the Catholic right doesn't care who or what you worship or believe, but instead believe that the moral teachings of the Catholic Church apply to everyone.) At this point, both sides want to impose what is considered traditional Christian moral teachings on the entire nation, especially as far as sexuality and gender roles are concerned. Neither side cares about those who disagree with them, believing their opponents are damned and/or hopelessly wrong.

by wayward 2005-05-03 03:00AM | 0 recs
There is nothing more pathetic
"We should also expect that this process will only continue to get worse, as all locations for partisan news, both right wing and left wing, are booming. As someone who makes a living by working in partisan news ..."

Than a fifty cent prostitute.

by turnerbroadcasting 2005-05-02 07:36PM | 0 recs
What we need
We need lots of things, but one thing we really need is a Ralph Nader kind of pro-bono law firm that would take some of these issues before the FCC and really fight them out, and do it with lots of publicity.  

I've done enough driving cross country to know that the claim is correct -- NPR stations or repeaters are frequently drowned out by Christian Preacher Stations.  The only way to "win" is to measure things place by place, and file claims with the FCC.  Eventually you'll establish that the pattern is that NPR is "always" the drown-ed, and the Christian Preacher is the perp.  Pattern leads to "Conspiracy to Drown" -- steal goose from off the common.  But unless you have measurements, you can get nowhere.  

Sadly, with the political attack on CPB, PBS and NPR currently going on, I don't think we can expect them to defend themselves -- and I think they fear the organization of any kind of popular defense they cannor really control, though that is precisely what is needed now.  In a sense, as  Minnesotian, I am lucky -- two PBS stations, and two NPR stations -- none of the four really dependent on immediate state or federal subsidies to stay on the air.  (and I like my 6 hours per day of BBC News Programing on MPR. -- I like my hour of Canadian News.)  But I also know that all over this country NPR stations are buried in the local library budget and are most vulnerable.  

Many Liberals and Progressives diss NPR -- and I too can have my arguments with it -- but compared to all the rest, it delivers pretty straight News, and we need to not only defend it, but essentially buy out the opposition.  

I actually have an economic theory as to how this actually could be done -- I call it "reverse advertising".  What it involves is would be advertisers -- or producers of products or services -- offering consumers "vouchers" that they could turn over to radio stations for product placement statements.  What this would mean is that the current "tax" on producers would not be spent at the whim or political decision of the business owner -- but it would be a "vote" by the consumers.  It might be impossible, but the fight would be worth making the case that a very small "electorate" actually decide how advertising money is spent, and thus which News Sources actually have the Capital to collect and produce Newsprograms.  

by Sara 2005-05-02 08:19PM | 0 recs
Re: What we need
Where do I file my complaint?

The preacher station is drowning out one of the best truly local, independent, music stations in the country.

by wayward 2005-05-03 03:02AM | 0 recs
Re: What we need
You can file on line at the FCC.  You need to file with appropriate details -- specific times, specific programs, call letters and place on the band.  It is also good to have the complaint backed by testing the phenonema with several radios -- some do not have the best tuners.  I know people who have successfully filed using tape recordings on cassetts demonstrating the problems -- and doing so from several locations with a variety of receivers.  

Complaints are more likely to be given investigative attention if a reasonable number of people make the same set of complaints.  And it is also useful if elected officials are notified the complaints are being made and asked to support the effort.  

by Sara 2005-05-04 02:04AM | 0 recs
Anachronism by CJR
I'm a former Evangelical Covenant Church pastor now serving as a United Methodist pastor and a regular reader here at MyDD which I think is one of the best blogs in blogtopia (yes, skippy, i know who created that term).

The CJR is wrong to talk about evangelicals doing anything before 1945 includng flocking to broadcasting. Evangelicals are the result of the adoption of premillenial dispensationlim (Think "Left Behind" by Tim LaHaye) by fundamentalists (think Philadelphia in the early 1900s). The resultant groups,under the leadership of Carl F. Henry, began to pull away from fundamentalism after the Second World War. Their goal was to become less separatistic and more involved in the culture. The flagship magazine of evangelicalism, "Christianity Today," was established by Henry ond others to point the way to an involvement with culture that would be transformative, i.e., that (to use a biblical simile) would act as yeast.

by skank 2005-05-03 04:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Anachronism by CJR
I'd really appreciate some links to sources.  I think it's important to know this kind of history--and it's not generally out there.
by plunkitt 2005-05-03 05:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Anachronism by CJR
I am a methodist moving into a new church,
called the church of the apostles, that
is an evangelical church.

The focus of much of what our founding
rector talks about are christian love,
and family.

For example, last sunday he told the story
of a young woman who pleaded with Oliver Cromwell to spare the life of her young husband to be
in ancient england, accused of war crimes and
sentenced to hang. Cromwell replied "when that
bell rings, your fiance will die." He could do
nothing for her.

But on the day of his execution, the bellsman
went to ring the bell, he pulled the rope. Nothing happened. Again. Nothing happened.

Finally he pulled harder and the bell began
to whimper. So they pulled her out
of the bell. She was beaten nearly to death -
she had tied herself to the clapper.

Cromwell spared her life.

This was an act of evangelism. It was a simple
act, but one that required total dedication.

80% of people come to Christ, I am told,
before they are of age. Big tent type activities
and powder blue suits - they're out there,
but so is the circus.

Evangelism is simple.

As a friend of mine said. When HE calls upon
you, you will know it.

Until then, whatever you do, just be the best.
that was the advice we received.

I would have to agree, then with what has been
written here. The pastor is right.

by turnerbroadcasting 2005-05-03 06:15AM | 0 recs
Evangelism is Simple
Let me demonstrate, with precisely one CNN article,
why evangelism can be as simple as just
knowing where you are right now ..

http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/science/04/29/human.animal.mixing.ap/index.html

This message has been brought to you by Oryx and Crake,
the hothead mutation, and every christian grassroots
liberal that drew breath to win the war, and a talking tomato. Enjoy.

by turnerbroadcasting 2005-05-03 06:05AM | 0 recs

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