The Evangelical Noise Machine
by Chris Bowers, Mon May 02, 2005 at 02:58:48 PM EDT
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.