Programming

Keeping the Faith on Mideast Coverage

Religious networks expand their news operations in Israel to super-serve viewers 7/08/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern

As budgets and airtime for Middle East news shrink at most
mainstream U.S. nets, religious and faith-based networks remain
steady in their commitment to offering Mideast news coverage to
their flocks. Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) is one example, having
reached a deal to broadcast a daily news program originating from Israel.

Produced by the Israel Broadcasting Authority, IBA News is a 30-minute
current events program offering in-depth coverage and analysis of
events and issues in Israel and the Middle East.

“The vision of airing the IBA News program on TBN is to get an
unfiltered, unbiased version of the news coming out of Israel for the
Christians in America,” said Matthew Crouch, VP of TBN. Crouch
noted that TBN has had a long relationship with Israel; his parents,
TBN founders Paul and Jan Crouch, have met with nearly every Israeli
president and prime minister over the past 35 years.


IBA News
will feature “relevant, faith-based news coverage from Israel
that is not always reported on from other media outlets in the U.S.,”
said Paul Crouch, TBN president.

TBN is also finishing up construction of a
state-of-the-art television studio that will produce
programming for its Shalom channel
as well as for two other Middle Eastern networks:
TBN’s Al-Horreya Arabic-language affiliate and its Nejat TV Farsi-language affiliate.

While TBN is just setting up shop in that
region, the Christian Broadcasting Network
already boasts a full-time news bureau in
Jerusalem consisting of six Americans and
seven Israelis.

“It’s a major news bureau in Israel,” said
Michael Little, CBN president and COO. “That’s an indication of the
status that we [place] on covering the country.” CBN runs a half-hour
newscast every other week called Jerusalem Dateline.

“We will most often carry a story about Israel when other news
organizations wouldn’t,” said Little. “We look at Israel generally
through a biblical perspective.”

To no surprise, it’s not just Christian stations that are interested
in what happens in Israel. Jewish-heritage network Shalom TV also
carries IBA News—COO Bradford Hammer described the program as
one of its “programming staples”—as well as another weekday series,
Shalom TV News Update.

Hammer noted Shalom has carried live telecasts of the AIPAC
(American Israel Public Affairs Committee) National Policy Conference
in Washington, D.C.; the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York
City; and the Israeli Presidential Conference in Israel (which Shalom
TV president and CEO Rabbi Mark Golub attended). “These news elements supplement our seven-year tradition
of providing the Jewish perspective on
issues and events of the day,” said Hammer.

Shalom TV offers roundtables, interviews,
commentaries and long-format coverage
of public affairs events. Hammer said
some of the events Shalom TV has covered
in recent months include: Iranian nuclear
threats, Muslim anti-Semitism, Middle East
violence and the “impact of Jewish thought
on modern democracy.”

The Faith-Based News Leader

Even though it devotes many of its resources to Israeli coverage,
CBN puts a lot toward its coverage of what’s going on stateside. Little
points out that CBN has a dedicated news channel on its website,
which he likens to mainstream networks.

“It will be the same lineup of stories that you would find at CNN
or CBS,” said Little, who estimates that 75% of CBN’s stories are the
same. “Certainly, we’re different in the fact that we add commentary
from a biblical perspective.” Little added that CBN will also cover
those stories that “are of interest to Christians that the other guys are
not going to cover.”

Aside from a bureau overseas, CBN has
one in Washington (CBN is headquartered
in Virginia Beach, Va.) with 25 reporters.
“We like to think that we’re a competitive
news organization with a fraction of the
resources,” said Little. “I don’t know who
really does news other than us on the faithbased
side.”

Outsourcing Coverage

For TBN, IBA News is just the latest example
of the network’s cost-conscious approach to news coverage: outsourcing.
TBN also airs CBN’s Christian World News and The 700 Club.

“We don’t have our own news team, but we feel like we have a balance
[of coverage],” said Bob Higley, TBN VP of affiliate relations. “We
do cover events that take place in the Christian world.” One of TBN’s
self-produced news shows, Behind the Scenes, covers select church
events. The program is hosted by Paul and Matt Crouch.

“Paul Crouch didn’t see a need to develop our own news team,” said
Higley. “He thought 700 Club did a great job.”

E-mail comments to tim.baysinger@gmail.com
and follow him on Twitter: @tim_bays

 

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