Programming

Non-Profit Standing Provides Additional Challenges for Religious Nets

Have to be wary to not "cross that line" 7/11/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

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While many religious networks have their coverage plans for the upcoming election cycle mapped out, their coverage key involves something the broadcasters and CNN's don't have to deal with: non-profit standing.

Networks such as CBN, EWTN and Shalom TV must be wary of how they cover the election, since they are by law not permitted to endorse any candidates; that including running ads during commercial breaks.

"That's a line we do not cross," says CBN CEO Gordon Robertson. "It affects everything we do." In order to combat any perceived political slant, CBN strays from live events. "We have every single script reviewed by attorneys," says Robertson. This is especially tricky for CBN's 700 Club, which airs on Disney-owned ABC Family thanks to a contractual obligation made as part of the Family Channel's (formerly CBN Cable) sale to News Corporation. Robertson says the network gets input from inside as well as outside counsel for that show, and have to go through a lot of red tape.

During the 2008 campaign, Shalom TV focused on Barack Obama's ties to Zbigniew Brzezinski and Reverend Jeremiah Wright, while also featuring interviews of Sarah Palin with rabbis in Anchorage. Instead of endorsing any particular candidate, Shalom TV COO Bradford Hammer says his network "provides the Jewish perspective on public affairs, with a special emphasis on the US-Israel alliance."

EWTN's non-profit standing is one of the key reasons it chooses not to cover the election cycle. "We're not in a position to endorse individual candidates," says Doug Keck, EWTN's EVP and COO. "We might endorse the teaching of the church on a particular subject."

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